There are few industries that have been disrupted by the Internet more than retail. Twenty years into the online phenomenon, merchants are still struggling to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The long line of store owners that have resorted to the bankruptcy process to survive proves the point. Shopping practices have changed forever, and they aren’t done changing. New devices and new retail techniques mean shopping is truly a moving target. The click-and-collect model is the latest wrinkle, as even e-commerce pioneer Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) experiments with physical extensions of its brand.

Enter the number crunchers. A slew of companies that specialize in analyzing shopping data are helping merchants with tools that deliver an unprecedented level of information. Strategic buyers and private equity firms are racing to snatch up the analytics providers, including JDA Software, Mi9 Retail and ShopperTrak.

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