Why Competitive E-Commerce Companies Rotate IP Addresses

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

We all know the feeling when you want those sneakers so bad you keep checking different websites for the best price. But it seems that they all decide to change the price at the same time. How do they do it? Do e-commerce companies have a secret agreement and email each other as soon as someone decides to raise the price?

Well, not really. But they all have rotating proxies, and they all monitor each other’s businesses. How? Why? What are proxies? How do they rotate? You may have all these questions popping into your head right now, and they’re about to be answered.

What is the IP address rotation?

First, let’s visit the basics: What is an IP address?

An IP address identifies every device connected to the internet, just like our physical addresses identifies where the letters, parcels, and other goods should be delivered.

IP rotation is a process where assigned IP addresses are distributed to a device at random or at scheduled intervals.

For example, when a connection is active via an Internet Service Provider (ISP), an IP address is automatically attached from a pool of IPs. As soon as a disconnection and reconnection occur, the ISP will distribute the next available IP address.

ISP rotate IP addresses because they usually have more users than IP addresses at their disposal. Hence, when a particular user disconnects, the ISP will bring back the user’s most recently used IP address to their pool of IP addresses, thus ensuring the optimization of existing resources.

What is a proxy rotation?

ISPs rotate IP addresses, and this process is transparent to their users. However, out there in the online world, there are plenty of cases when internet users intentionally rotate their IP address. In fact, not even an IP address, but they rotate proxies, which allows them to operate under multiple different IP addresses.

If the proxy server is accurately configured, rotating IP addresses from a proxy pool of IP addresses is possible. With rotating proxies, you can manage numerous connections from a single device, and carrying out web crawling and data scraping operations becomes a much easier task.

Why rotate proxies?

First and foremost, proxy rotation enhances the level of anonymity. Secondly, as already mentioned, it is a widely used practice to automate such tasks as data scraping and web crawling in order to increase success rates.

When it comes to web scraping operations, a common challenge faced by many is avoiding getting blocked by websites while trying to gather the data.

Several techniques can aid the prevention of blocks, and one of them is proxy rotation. It can help to operate scrapers past most of the anti-scraping measures as it allows them to imitate the behavior of multiple organic users. Hence, strengthening the chance of being undetected while gathering vast amounts of data.

There are countless cases out there when proxy rotation is being used. Here are some examples:

  • SEO firms use proxies that automatically rotate to check keyword rankings from various locations or to promote specific content on social media accounts.
  • Data intelligence companies rotate proxies automatically to scrape websites for analytics and performance purposes.
  • E-commerce companies gather product information from competitor’s sites. Why? You’re about to find out.

Scraping and e-commerce industry: the close ties

What do scraping and rotating proxies have to do with e-commerce? If you are in the e-commerce waters yourself, you probably know that the competition is becoming harsher every passing day. At the same time, markets are becoming saturated, consumers are becoming more price-sensitive, and search engines play a vital role in product research.

Today, more than ever, businesses in this industry need to get their hands on as much data as possible. This goes beyond making data-driven business decisions and also has something to do with business growth, market penetration, and sustainability.

Scraping streamlines competition research and provides powerful insights into what the competition is doing. Product information pages have a lot to tell. The price and product description copy only scratch the surface. For instance, scraping product descriptions can help you pick up the keywords the competition is using to rank high. User reviews can help you understand the target customers’ pain points.

Manually doing all this is time-consuming, not to mention the number of errors that are pretty common in repetitive tasks. More importantly, information on product pages changes, including prices, discounts, and sales. You are basically unable to detect these changes and identify patterns if you do it manually.

Scraping comes as the best answer to all your competition research needs. It is ultra-fast because it is carried out by bots. Basically, you get all the information you need in real-time without breaking a sweat because the process is completely automated. The data is well structured so that you can immediately spot trends, patterns, and find specific information.

Since we have established the link between scraping and e-commerce, let’s see why IP rotation is relevant here.

Rotating proxies for scraping product information

Big players in e-commerce verticals are very well aware their competitors are going to scrape their websites. As far as we know, they are doing it themselves as well. However, scraper bots can ruin the customer experience. They can generate a lot of traffic in a short time window. This amount of traffic and requests sent to the server can slow down an e-commerce website or even bring it down.

As a result, many e-commerce websites implement anti-scraping technologies. These technologies enable servers to spot suspicious user behavior and user agents. Telling bots from users is easy today. Frequent requests and a high quantity of requests from a single IP address is one of the main tell-tale signs. This is exactly where rotating proxies become relevant.

Given the fact that you are performing a large scale scraping operation because the number of product pages is substantial, getting blocked is the most probable, if not imminent, scenario.

It appears that rotating proxies are the option in this particular use-case. It is the only way to ensure that requests sent to a server for scraping services originate from a different IP address. Besides, rotating proxies change your scraping pattern.

You can set the proxy rotator in different ways to bypass anti-scraping technologies and run your operation without any disruptions.

There are two ways to do it. You can set it to assign a new IP address for each request, or set a time-based IP address rotation.

Conclusion

Now you know what benefits a combination of proxies and IP rotation provides, and the purpose it serves. If you yourself are carrying out data scraping and web crawling tasks, you simply have to implement a high-quality proxy rotation solution to increase your success rates and protect your proxy pool infrastructure. After all, well-established e-commerce companies are doing this already, and we all have something to learn from them.

Adelina Kiskyte is a Content Manager at Oxylabs, covering topics on data extraction, web scraping, dynamic pricing & tech trends.

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