Protect Your Brand With MAP Monitoring
Pricing is a vital element of your branding. Beyond just covering costs and making a profit, the price of your product influences your customer’s perceived value. After all, who really values a $20 knock-off designer handbag? The real thing, on the other hand, inspires devoted admiration in millions. Even if you don’t consider your company a luxury brand, it’s still important to make sure retailers aren’t selling your product for less than the minimum advertised price (MAP). Your MAP protects your brand image, retail value, and profit margins.
While protecting the MAP of a product might seem like an issue only manufacturers should be concerned about, it affects other retailers as well. Some retailers faithfully follow MAP policies, but some violate them frequently. This negatively impacts your competitive advantage and the value of your inventory. Whether you’re a manufacturer or a retailer, MAP monitoring can help you detect and address MAP violations.
If you’re already familiar with the process and use cases of MAP monitoring, feel free to use the table of contents to skip around to the sections that interest you the most.
What Is MAP Monitoring?
Consumers are always looking for the best deal, hoping to find a hidden gem being sold for far less than its worth. Retailers capitalize on this by running sales that promise drastic discounts. However, the truth is that sale prices are just a marketing strategy for most retailers. Manufacturers set a minimum advertised price for retailers that sell their products. The MAP prevents retailers from advertising the type of drastic discounts consumers dream of. This helps keep prices uniform and protects the brand’s reputation. After all, if you can buy brand-name sneakers for $30 at one store, why would you ever pay $125 at another?
MAP monitoring is the process of ensuring that retailers are complying with MAP agreements. Obviously, this would be an extremely laborious process if you had to visit every retailer’s website and manually check their advertised prices for every product you’re monitoring. Instead, this is done by web scrapers. Web scrapers are bots that crawl the web to extract data and export it into a readable format.
Benefits of MAP Price Monitoring for Manufacturers
While it would be wonderful to live in a world where everyone abided by terms they agreed to, unfortunately, we do not. Instituting a MAP agreement is the first step manufacturers need to take to protect their pricing, but an agreement is useless if it isn’t enforced. Therefore, manufacturers and other retailers need to implement a method of ensuring MAP agreements are followed. The benefits of MAP pricing monitoring include:
Enabling MAP enforcement
You know that a MAP policy ensures your profitability and maintains your brand standards over time. However, it’s not possible to enforce your MAP agreements without tracking down violators. Over time, you’ll lose credibility with retailers if you never bother enforcing your MAP policies. On the other hand, strict MAP enforcement builds trust with your retail partners and ultimately improves both of your brands. Retailers who follow your MAP guidelines will appreciate that you have MAP monitoring procedures in place.
Ensuring consistent pricing across channels
Some retailers have much higher overhead expenses than others. For some, a luxury shopping experience is part of their brand. Their customers are willing to pay a premium for it. Other retailers have a business model that relies on cutting out frills and delivering the lowest possible price. While each hopes to optimize profits through their business model, you don’t want their strategy to harm your brand.
By setting and enforcing a MAP agreement, both retailers can pursue their preferred model without negatively affecting your brand. The luxury retailer can charge as much as they like, the discount retailer can cut their profits to the bone, and neither will devalue your product. However, what ultimately ends up happening is that the price for your product remains mostly stable. Your customers learn to associate your products with your MAP, with only slight variations by retailer.
Protecting brand identity
You’ve undoubtedly invested a lot of time, energy, and money into building your brand’s identity. Building an effective brand identity is all about telling a compelling story that appeals to your ideal customer. Pricing is a large part of that story. Customers equate a higher price with higher quality.
When retailers sell your product for less than the MAP, they are undermining the value of your brand in the eyes of consumers. It may not seem like a big deal if one retailer discounts unsold products, especially if they paid the wholesale price. However, if it happens often enough consumers will think of your products as part of a discount brand.
Promoting fair competition
Although your primary motivation for enforcing MAP agreements may be to protect your business, you’re also protecting other businesses. Huge retailers can often afford to undercut smaller retailers, which can eventually put them out of business. By enforcing minimum advertised pricing, you level the playing field and limit the discounts larger retailers can offer. This will also serve your interests since having more retailers selling your product strengthens your market position.
Benefits of MAP Price Monitoring for Retailers
Manufacturers aren’t the only ones who benefit from MAP monitoring. You ensure your profitability by preventing other retailers from violating the minimum advertised price. Some of the reasons retailers engage in map price monitoring include:
In addition to ensuring your competitors aren’t violating MAP agreements, MAP monitoring allows you to maintain a competitive edge. Even if other retailers are abiding by MAP agreements, you can glean valuable data to drive your own optimal pricing strategies by following theirs. Additionally, reporting any violators to manufacturers will give retailers who follow the guidelines the flexibility to pursue higher profit margins.
Ensuring long-term viability
Being stuck with excess inventory is one of a retailer’s greatest fears. It’s often excess inventory that drives a discount pricing strategy. However, as long as MAP policies are upheld, a product can maintain its value over the long term, which reduces the risk of holding onto unsold inventory. A product that maintains its value sells better, improving your position and the manufacturer’s position.
Maintaining good brand relationships
Manufacturers often choose retailers who resonate with their consumers and their brand. By complying with MAP policies and reporting any violators, you can foster a positive relationship with brands you want to cultivate.
How to Enforce Your MAP Pricing Policies
At this point, you may be convinced about the value of MAP monitoring but are wondering exactly how to do it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing a MAP monitoring process.
1. Implement a MAP policy
Since you’re reading an article on MAP monitoring, you probably have MAP guidelines in place already. But if not, that’s definitely the first step. Let your retailers know exactly what your policy is in addition to the consequences for violating it. However, you don’t want to alienate your partners, so strike an upbeat, friendly tone with your notification.
Most retailers will welcome a MAP since it benefits them as well. Use this to your advantage when explaining why you’re implementing a MAP policy. Outline the positives for them and address them in a welcoming rather than scolding manner. If this is a new policy, make sure you give your retailers the exact date the policy will go into effect. Give them some notice to make adjustments to their pricing structure if necessary.
If you have a MAP policy that you haven’t been enforcing but plan to start, it’s also a good idea to send out a notice rather than taking retailers by surprise. You can send out notices directly to your retailers but send them to your distributors as well. Industry forums and websites are also good places to make an announcement.
2. Send a reminder
Once the notice period passes and your policy is in effect, send a quick reminder to your distributors and sellers that your policy is now fully in effect. Include a brief outline of your policy. Keep it light but include the consequences of failing to comply.
3. Monitor your sellers
Track your sellers and products to find any violations. We’ll detail the best way to do this in another section.
4. Issue a warning
Send a friendly warning to remind them of your policy if you find any violations. Include details about the violation, including their current price and the MAP. At this point, you don’t need to take a hard stand, but let them know their prices are below the MAP and they need to raise them immediately. It may be a simple oversight that they’ll be happy to correct.
5. Follow up
Wait two or three days, and then recheck to see if your retailers have adjusted their prices to reflect the MAP. If they haven’t, send a sterner notice that includes a warning and a deadline for changing their prices.
6. Send a final notice to repeat offenders
You’ll have to decide how many violations you send warnings for before you take action. This should be decided as part of your policy, although you don’t necessarily have to advertise it. Whether you decide on two violations or ten, send a final notice to any retailers who reach your limit and don’t change their prices. Clearly explain that this is the final notice, include a recap of your policy and your reasons for implementing it, and give a firm deadline for compliance.
7. Cut ties with any retailers who don’t comply
Follow up with any sellers who refuse to comply after sending a final notice. Ask them to remove your products and notify your distributors not to sell your products to them. While it can seem harsh, especially if the violations weren’t major, you don’t want to work with companies that don’t respect your brand or your policies. In the long run, these retailers will tarnish your brand’s reputation.
What Kind of Tools Do You Need to Monitor MAP?
The key to efficient MAP monitoring is automating the process. Unless you’re only selling a few products to a few retailers, manually monitoring every retailer who sells your product would be incredibly inefficient. A web scraper can accomplish in minutes what it would take a team of employees countless hours to do. As we touched on earlier, a web scraper is an automated computer program that can quickly search multiple retail sites and extract the prices of multiple products into an easy-to-analyze format such as JSON file or spreadsheet.
Web scraping is a valuable source for many different types of corporate data, not just price monitoring. To get started with web scraping, you’ll need some specific tools, including:
A web scraper
Before you can begin price monitoring, you’ll need to gather some information to guide your web scraper. You’ll need to know which sites you want to scrape and what data you want to be exported. For MAP monitoring, you’ll want to scrape all your products and all websites where your product is sold.
If you have a robust IT team, coding a web scraper is probably well within their ability. However, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Blazing SEO offers Scraping Robot to simplify the process of price monitoring or any other data scraping project.
If you’re ready to monitor your MAP compliance but don’t want to deal with the complexities of figuring out web scraping and managing proxies, Scraping Robot is the perfect tool. Our solution was built to support businesses that want to take advantage of all of the benefits of big data insights without worrying about blocks, proxy management, CAPTCHAs, or browser scaling. We manage all of this for you, so you can focus on MAP enforcement instead of dealing with the headaches involved in scraping data and monitoring prices.
In addition to a data scraper, you’ll need proxies to get started with MAP monitoring. Proxy is short for a proxy IP address, which is an IP address that acts as an intermediary between your computer and the website you’re visiting. We’ll go into more detail about the type of proxies in another section, but for now, it’s important to know that MAP monitoring is practically impossible without them.
The elements of a web scraper that make them so valuable for MAP monitoring also make them prone to being banned from websites. Web scrapers perform actions much faster than any human can, often sending thousands of simultaneous requests.
Most websites don’t want to be scraped and have anti-scraping technology designed to block any bot-like activity. Whenever these websites suspect a bot is accessing their site, they block the associated IP address. Some websites simply don’t want their competitors accessing their data, but most have more justifiable reasons for blocking bots. Bots can overload the server by sending too many requests and cause it to crash. Bad actors may also use bots for malicious purposes.
Regardless of the reason, the upshot is that even if you’re scraping for legitimate reasons such as MAP monitoring, you’re going to need to use proxies to avoid bans. Proxies hide your real IP address and help your web scraper mimic human activity so that it can avoid bans.
Best Practices for MAP Monitoring
There are some steps you should take to decrease your chances of getting banned and improve your MAP monitoring process results.
Check the robots.txt file
Most large websites (and some small ones) will have a robots.txt file indicating if they allow scraping and what rules you should follow if you scrape. Most of these rules aim to limit the impact bots have on their servers. Some common rules include:
- Limit the number of requests that come from the same IP address
- Set a delay between multiple requests
- Scrape during off-hours
- Check the API before you scrape
Limit and randomly space your requests
Just because your amazing scraper can send thousands of requests per second doesn’t mean it should. Crashing the server isn’t going to benefit you or the site you’re scraping. However, spacing your requests alone isn’t enough. You should space them at random intervals. Many web scrapers will allow you to set a random interval that doesn’t exceed a certain amount of time, such as two seconds. The preferred delay for a particular site may be listed in the robots.txt file. If it isn’t, any amount between two and ten seconds should be adequate.
This is part of the overarching goal of getting your bot to act as human as possible. No human would send out perfectly spaced requests. Human behavior is random and messy.
Check your user agent
A user agent is the HTTP string in the header of your request. It contains identifying information about your device, such as what type of browser and operating system you’re using. A missing user agent is a sure sign of a bot, so make sure yours has a user agent. Some web scrapers let you automatically set and rotate user agents, but if yours doesn’t, you should be able to do it manually.
Every browser has its own user agent, and they’re updated periodically. You can find a large list of user agents and the systems they’re associated with here.
Include a referrer
A referrer is an HTTP request header that tells a site where you’re coming from. While not absolutely necessary, setting a referrer mimics natural browsing patterns. Most people end up on websites after coming from a search engine or a social media platform.
You can add a referrer with this header: “Referer”: “https://www.websitename.com/” to make it appear as if you’re coming from that site. If you’re scraping a foreign site, using the appropriate referrer header can give your scraper added authenticity.
Watch for honeypot traps
A honeypot is a page on a website invisible to humans but discoverable by bots. Because no human would visit the page, a website knows any visits to that page were made by bots and blocks that IP address. There are several ways a website can set a honeypot trap. Some websites use a page that isn’t set to display, and some set the color of the link to match the background color. Here are some settings you can program your scraper to avoid:
Eliminate your browser’s user interface elements
A headless browser is stripped of normal user interface elements such as tab bars, URL bars, and bookmarks. A headless browser is perfect for automated tasks because it doesn’t use resources loading visual features that your web scraper won’t need while still allowing it to imitate activities such as scrolling, clicking, and downloading.
Although headless browsers conserve resources in some areas, they are CPU and memory-intensive, so this isn’t the main reason to use them. The biggest benefit of using a headless browser is to avoid fingerprinting. Fingerprinting refers to the numerous ways a website can identify your device. Your IP address is the main way, but there are other, more subtle methods.
Use rotating proxies
Using a proxy IP address will prevent a website from seeing your actual IP address, so it can’t be banned. However, simply hiding your IP address isn’t enough to avoid bans. If you change out your real IP address for a proxy and act like a bot from the proxy IP address, it will get banned just as quickly as your real one would. To avoid this, you need to use a proxy pool or rotating proxy IPs. Rotating proxies link a different IP address to every request you send, so each request looks like it’s coming from a different location. If you send out a thousand requests, you’ll use a thousand different IP addresses.
The Best Proxies for MAP Monitor Scraping
Like everything else associated with MAP monitoring, proxies can be complicated. There are many different types of proxies. Proxies can be categorized based on where they originate, who can use them, who owns them, the internet protocols they follow, and if they’re static or rotating. They can be a combination of different types, too.
To keep things as simple as possible, we’ll stick with the types of proxies you’re most likely to encounter when using them for MAP Monitoring. We’ll discuss the different types of proxies available and the best use cases for each so you can decide what option is best for you.
Data center proxies
Data center proxies originate in data centers. They are hosted on servers in a data center and are the most common proxy type available. Data center proxies are plentiful and cheap.
When you use a data center proxy, the data center serves as the intermediary between your device and the web server you’re contacting. First, your request is sent to the data center, and the data center changes your IP address before sending your request to the server. Then the server sends a response to the data center. Finally, the data center relays the response back to you.
Data center proxies offer several benefits, including:
Data center proxies can be one of the fastest options, particularly if the data center is located near the webserver you’re trying to contact. If you’re accessing websites in foreign countries, having data center proxies in that country can speed up the process. While data center proxies are great for use cases (such as gaming) that benefit from their speed, this isn’t much of an issue with MAP monitoring. You’ll probably be intentionally slowing your scraper down to engage in MAP monitoring best practices, so the increased speed associated with data center proxies isn’t crucial.
Data center proxies effectively strip your IP address of location data. Although the general location of the data center can be read, your location information is disguised. Additionally, using a data center located in another country makes it look like you’re accessing the website from that country. This can be an advantage if you’re monitoring prices in foreign countries and want to access the data as it appears to users in that country.
While data center proxies offer a high degree of anonymity, it’s easy to tell that they originate in a data center. They are more likely to be viewed suspiciously by websites since most humans have residential IP addresses. Because of this, data center proxies aren’t ideal for MAP monitoring in most cases.
Because data centers create and maintain them, these proxies are produced at scale. They’re cheap to buy in large volumes, which you’ll need if you use them for MAP monitoring because they’re prone to bans and have to be frequently replaced.
The biggest drawback to data center proxies is that they’re easily identifiable as such. Normal users rarely have data center IP addresses. As a result, regardless of how many other precautions you take to seem human, they’re a red flag for bot behavior.
Unlike data center proxies, residential proxies are associated with a specific residential address. They are issued by internet service providers (ISP) to their customers. This is the type of IP address you probably have at home. Residential IP addresses have the most authority for MAP monitoring. They are indistinguishable from normal IP addresses because they are normal IP addresses. They are sourced from actual end-users.
The main advantage that residential IP addresses have regarding MAP monitoring is their authority. Most websites are reluctant to ban residential IPs unless they engage in blatant bot behavior. As a result, combining rotating residential IP addresses with MAP monitoring best practices means you’ll have a high success rate with very little downtime and few bans. This is a significant advantage and can make the difference in a frictionless MAP monitoring process and one plagued with frustrating issues.
Despite their huge advantage for MAP monitoring, residential IP addresses have some downsides worth mentioning. First of all, they’re more expensive. The reason they’re more expensive directly relates to their second disadvantage, which is that they’re often sourced unethically. There’s no getting around it: residential IP addresses are hard to source.
They come from real users, so their supply is much more limited than data center proxies. There’s a lot involved in responsibly and ethically sourcing residential IP addresses. First, you have to recruit willing end-users interested in letting their IP address be used as a proxy. Then you have to ensure that they understand and agree with how their IP addresses will be used.
Additionally, you need to have protocols so their IP address will only be used at times that won’t interfere with their own use. Finally, you have to compensate them fairly and periodically follow up to ensure their ongoing informed consent. And you have to do this for every residential IP address you obtain.
This is a much more involved process than generating data center proxies. It’s such an involved process, and residential IP addresses are so much more valuable for MAP monitoring and other data scraping projects that many unethical companies don’t bother. They may trick end-users by offering a free app and stealing their IP address when they download it. Another shady, but not quite as unethical, method of sourcing IP addresses involves burying the terms of service in tiny type that end-users rarely bother scrolling through, much less reading.
Some of these methods are unethical, and some are downright illegal. Either way, you don’t want your company associated with them. MAP monitoring is all about protecting your brand, so you don’t want to compromise by associating with unethical vendors that could expose you to legal accountability. That’s why it’s vital you choose an ethical proxy provider when you’re buying proxies.
Blazing SEO is totally committed to ensuring all of our residential proxies are 100% ethically sourced. All of our end-users give their informed consent, which they can retract at any time. They have complete control over how their IP addresses are used. We limit the use of their IP address to times when they aren’t using it, so we don’t consume their resources.
Finally, all of our end-users are financially compensated for the use of their IP addresses. It’s not an easy or cheap process, but we decided early on that we wouldn’t provide residential IP addresses if we couldn’t do it ethically.
Another category of proxies that’s worth mentioning briefly is public proxies. These proxies are free and widely available on the internet. While it sounds great — who doesn’t love free? — it’s definitely a case of getting what you pay for. It’s often a case of getting more than you paid for, but not in a good way.
Public proxies are so overloaded that their performance is dismal at best. With so many users accessing them, you will find yourself facing constant bans. And when they aren’t banned, they’ll be so slow you’ll spend more time trying to get your scraper up and working than monitoring prices.
Those are the best possible outcomes. The cybersecurity risks you expose your company to by using public proxies are far more serious. Most don’t use secure internet protocols, so your data isn’t encrypted. The worst of them are traps set by hackers to gain access to your data when you use them. Public proxies are not in any way viable for enterprise use cases like MAP monitoring.
Rotating vs. static proxies
Proxies can be either static or rotating. Static proxies are when you replace your IP address with another one. These are great options for hiding your IP address when you want to protect your privacy while browsing the internet. They aren’t very useful for MAP monitoring because an IP address that sends out multiple requests will get banned quickly, even if it’s not your real IP address.
Rotating proxies consist of a pool of proxy addresses used on a rotating basis. Every request is assigned a new IP address. As a result, it looks like a different human user is making each request. This is the best option for MAP monitoring since it will result in the smoothest experience with the fewest bans.
Shared vs. dedicated proxies
Another way to classify proxies is by how many people use them. More than one user uses shared proxies. The term shared can mean anything from public proxies accessible by anyone to a pool of proxies reserved for two or three users. While public proxies are a bad choice for multiple reasons, sharing a pool of proxies with one or two other users can be viable.
This type of limited sharing is referred to as semi-dedicated proxies. If you trust your proxy provider to thoroughly vet the users you’ll be sharing your proxy pool with, this can be a good way to save money. The other option is using dedicated proxies. This proxy pool is reserved for your exclusive use and is the best option in terms of performance and security. The only disadvantage to using dedicated proxies is that they’re more expensive.
Choosing a Proxy Provider to Monitor MAP
Because proxies have such an outsized influence on the success of your MAP monitoring project, choosing the right proxy provider is an important decision. BlazingSEO is the most reliable and ethical proxy provider you can partner with. We protect our reputation as fiercely as you do yours, and this means we stand behind all of our proxies and our business practices.
Our data center proxies are lightning-fast and offer superior performance. We have over 300,000 data center IP addresses in 27 Countries across 9 ASNs and 20,000 unique C-class subnets. We provide unlimited bandwidth and connections with data center proxies and free automatic 30-day replacements along with instant individual replacements.
Our residential proxies are the perfect solution for modern enterprise customers. There is no better option for MAP monitoring than our rotating residential proxies. In addition to providing a superior product, we are 100% committed to ethically sourcing our residential IP addresses and vetting our customers. We have a completely transparent process that we would be happy to discuss.
We hope you found this article informative and helpful. MAP monitoring is a complicated subject, but hopefully, you better understand the benefits and processes involved.
MAP monitoring is essential for protecting your brand and ensuring your long-term profitability. By controlling the manufacturer advertised price, you can prevent discount retailers from starting a price war and compromising your product’s perceived value.
Implementing a comprehensive MAP policy that includes MAP monitoring will make MAP enforcement easier to incorporate into your company’s quality assurance workflow. MAP monitoring can be complicated, but you can automate the process for fast results by using a web scraper and proxies. However, using the right type of proxies obtained from an ethical provider is vital to your success.
When you’re ready to discuss how BlazingSEO can help you implement your corporate data strategies, reach out to our team. We’re a data company, and we’re happy to do whatever it takes to help you achieve your goal. From providing the most authoritative and reliable proxies to doing the scraping for you, we’re committed to providing the data solutions you need. Our expert-level technical support team is always available to help.
The information contained within this article, including information posted by official staff, guest-submitted material, message board postings, or other third-party material is presented solely for the purposes of education and furtherance of the knowledge of the reader. All trademarks used in this publication are hereby acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.
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