Internet retailing has always been seen as both a problem and a promise. Ever since Microsoft first bundled Internet Explorer into Windows, every industry that has been affected by the web—which is to say, every industry—has been subjected to endless tales of the online El Dorado, where they can suddenly reach a global marketplace of engaged consumers.

But sometimes the hype outpaces the profit, as wave after wave of fads, bubbles, and buzzwords have shown. In reality, the companies ostensibly poised to gain the most from online retailing often face a crisis of revenue, as savvy users exploit the omni-channel environment to undercut prices and accelerate competition past feasibility.

The landscape has changed in recent years, however, because the tools have finally caught up to the requirements. At last, we’re moving into an era where the available technologies are enabling retailers to benefit as much from the web as consumers.

But companies that want to meet their customers directly need to do more than apply a veneer of online capability. Rather, they need to transition their processes to embody the new reality, not just reflect it.

The Problem of Legacy Systems and Why Traditional Publishing Won’t Last

The Internet’s disruption of the newspaper publishing industry offers a good analogy. Digital piracy and the public’s growing expectation for free products have undercut all forms of media, but few have been more impacted than newspapers.

It’s no secret that traditional news publications are on the decline, and they’ve been scrambling to come up with a new model ever since Craiglist destroyed revenue from classifieds practically overnight. Likewise, digital advertising is starting to improve, but it doesn’t offer the same cache as print advertising. Not only are ad revenues dwindling, but so are subscribers, and as those metrics go down, so do staff positions, number of pages, etc.

Many news publications have sought to cut costs by transitioning to web-only models of distribution, but the promise of pay-walls hasn’t delivered, and most of those attempts have failed to monetize.

Nevertheless, the demand for news content and reporting has actually grown, especially with the rise of mobile consumption. Meanwhile, some outlets like Huffington Post, Vice, Gawker, and Vox have all outperformed remarkably well. What makes the difference?

Of course, there are many variables, but successful web publications share a common trait: they understand their platform and deliver to it.

Build with the Tools You Have, Not the Ones You Don’t

The news cycle was originally built around a physical product: reporters gathered their stories through the day, submitted by early evening, and returned the next day to start the process over, with their previous day’s labour spread out on breakfast tables, tucked into briefcases, and poking out of wastebaskets.

But that was a system based on artificial processes of production and distribution, not on the actual news cycle. The news doesn’t take place in discrete chunks of time like writing and printing it does.

Today’s robust news outlets have learned to produce content much more organically, not according to a schedule that was imposed by constraints that no longer exist. It’s always tough to change, but success means creating processes that coordinate with the environment in which the product is consumed, not simply in updating legacy systems.

Leaving Behind the Limits of Communication with Data Visualizations

Retailers aren’t scaling back their physical products the way publishers are, but they do face a similar transition. And just like content producers, their success in the online sphere depends on how organically they share information within the company and between organizations.

The value of retail analytics powered by Big Data has been proven many times over by industry leaders like P&G, Macys, and Wal-Mart, as well as innumerable other companies. Successful omni-channel retailers also share a common trait: they use powerful platforms for data visualization in order to maintain real-time product awareness and to drive actionable insights for outcomes such as better forecasting, targeted promotions, and more efficient supply-chain systems.

Customers found value in the Internet right away, but it’s taken much longer for retailers to discover the value of omni-channel data. Many high growth retailers have successfully transitioned to cloud-based solutions to address their analytical needs, allowing them to extract valuable insights and access powerful data visualizations from anywhere in the world. There has never been a better time for retailers to take advantage of the Internet – converting ordinary data into valuable visualizations for retail success.

Take the limits off your company’s data. Try a demo of Askuity’s retail analytics platform today.