I have just finished reading "The Long Tail" in which Chris Anderson does a nice job of introducing some key concepts that are redefining business in the Internet era. As he says "The era of one-size-fits-all is ending, and in its place is something new, a market of multitudes". In this world the ability of the Internet to give customers access to a vast (and rapidly growing) array of choices is changing not just how they buy but what they buy. The book has some solid research on how companies, both pure Internet retailers and mixed offline/online retailers are adapting to this world. The book discusses everything from Sturgeon's Law ("ninety percent of everything is crud") to the "98 percent rule" (98% of anything sold online will have at least occasional sales even if the online catalog is 40 times the offline one).
The book covers how hits have dominated in the past century and how niches will dominate in this one. It also gives some general suggestions as to what you can do about it although it does somewhat leave you hanging in terms of specific advice for how to do marketing, build information systems etc in this brave new world. There are lots of clear linkages between this new reality and the drive to automate more decisions. So many, in fact, that I wrote a whole post on them. This book is worth reading no matter what kind of business you work for and you can buy it here.