The competition among marketplaces and e-commerce platforms is no secret. Online retailers resort to reducing or increasing their prices to increase sales revenue or raise their profit margins. This practice often comes at the suppliers’ expense as their would-be customers get confused by the lack of uniformity in the price of a given item when comparing stores. To protect themselves, the manufacturers often rely on minimum advertised price (MAP) monitoring.
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The minimum advertised price (MAP) is the lowest price at which a vendor is allowed (by the manufacture) to advertise a product for sale. For example, if a supplier has set the MAP at $200 for a product, the retailer can only sell it at $200 or more. Selling the product at a lower price would contravene the MAP policy. Notably, violating this policy has some consequences, as we’ll detail later.
Although the retailers are aware of the consequences of violating the MAP policy, some do not always abide by their rules. As stated earlier, this disregard is primarily due to the need to remain competitive in a sea of other e-commerce platforms.
However, this comes at a cost to the supplier as it results in confusion among consumers, eventually tarnishing its reputation. They might wonder why there is a lack of uniformity and, more often than not, they will blame the supplier. Ultimately, they will decide to purchase the item from another manufacturer whose prices are consistent because they deem them trustworthy.
In this regard, manufacturers usually use MAP monitoring, the process of checking whether there are retailers, if any, violating the MAP agreements, to protect their brands. Upon identifying violators, resellers take action by stripping the retailer of the authority to sell the product(s).
MAP monitoring is a multistep process that begins with associating unique identifies, e.g., serial numbers, stock-keeping unit (SKU), international barcodes, or registered trademarks (text and images). Whichever mode of identification the manufacturer opts for, the choice should be clearly identifiable such that tracking is unimpeded during the subsequent steps.
The second step is choosing a reliable system that will regularly check the products, using the identifiers, to establish whether retailers are abiding by the MAP policy. The system could be manual or automated. However, the former would be slow, given the sheer number of e-commerce platforms. This fact leaves the latter as the surest and most reliable option for any success because it has numerous advantages, such as the ability to identify all violators.
The system chosen in step 2 collects data, providing the manufacturer with an arsenal with which to confront the violators when stating the claims of policy violations. The last step entails enforcing the MAP and banning the retailer from selling the products, the main consequence of breaking the MAP agreement.
While this process might sound simple, it is much more involving. This is where web scraping comes in.
Web scraping refers to the automated process of extracting data from websites using applications. Notably, whereas the term can also be used when talking about manual forms of data harvesting such as copy-pasting, it is rarely used in this context. The second MAP monitoring step involves data collection, meaning that it entails the use of web scraping tools.
Usually, the web scraping tools deployed during MAP monitoring also rely on web crawlers, which scour the internet looking for websites that contain the unique identifiers mentioned earlier. Once the crawlers come across such a site, the web scraper takes over and extracts the data. It subsequently converts it into a structured format that is downloadable as a .csv or spreadsheet file. Thereafter, the onus is on the manufacturer to use the data to enforce the MAP policy.
Notably, the web scraping tools extract the pricing data automatically, indicating that the supplier needs not to lift a finger or monitor the process. For this reason, web scraping is regarded as an automated form of MAP monitoring.
The use of automated tools has the following positive results:
The importance of price management, especially for suppliers whose products are sold via online platforms, is clear. This is despite it being a multistep process. Nonetheless, with automated forms of MAP monitoring, a manufacturer need not do everything manually.If you want to learn more about map monitoring, then continue reading this article and find out more.