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.

More M&A activity in the subsector is expected.  “The retail supply chain is a very complex one,” says Greg Ager, managing director of Signal Hill, who advised Quantum Retail Technology on its 2015 sale to Versata Enterprises. “Everyone is looking for a single version of the truth. It’s not an easy thing to do, but everyone is trying to do it.”

In the meantime, trade groups are predicting growth this holiday shopping season, buoyed by high consumer confidence. And dealmakers are anticipating that it all adds up to robust M&A in the consumer goods and retail sector.  

As 2016 draws to a close, M&A professionals say they are optimistic that the momentum of the second half of 2016 will build in 2017.