GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) stock has lost over 75% of its value over the last year, and the formerly high-flying camera business looks to be in need of a lift after poor sales performance for its HERO Session line kicked off a string of events that have deflated the overall company outlook.
Within the last 12 months, GoPro has cut back its product lineup, trimmed its workforce, and seen big product releases delayed. It has also launched a developer network to support its products and put increasing emphasis on improving and distributing the company's editing software, but other big changes will likely be needed if the company is to fend off competitors and grow its brand.
To get a sense of which moves might help GoPro turn things around, we've brought three Fools together to discuss potential opportunities.
Tim Green: GoPro's core problem is that the market for expensive action cameras is only so big. Even considered in a vacuum, very few people have a genuine need for GoPro products. Another problem is competition, ranging from lower-cost alternatives to smartphones featuring vastly improved cameras. GoPro has been focusing on making its products easier to use and improving its mobile app, but these steps likely won't be enough.
The company has built a brand that is well-known and well-liked, but brand alone isn't enough to sell $300 cameras. New products that leverage the brand are necessary. The company plans to launch its first drone, Karma, later this year, but the consumer drone market has the same problem as the action camera market. There are only so many people willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a high-end drone.
GoPro should absolutely not make a smartphone itself, but the company could partner with an existing smartphone maker. Smartphones are increasingly becoming direct competitors to GoPro products, so it makes sense for the company to have a presence. One could imagine a smartphone OEM launching models with GoPro's technology built-in. Such a move would cannibalize its action camera business, but it could help the company remain relevant against the backdrop of rising competition.
Alex Dumortier, CFA: The answer to that question depends on what you mean by "on track". If by "on track", you mean pursuing a successful strategy to become a mass-market product, there are no easy answers. How do you convince the average person that they need to go out and spend several hundred dollars on a new camera when they're already carrying one around with them everywhere they go -- on their smartphone? That camera combines ease-of-use and very acceptable quality -- certainly enough to meet the average person's needs.
My advice would be to dance with the one who brought you: extreme sports enthusiasts. That strategy has its limits, of course, as GoPro's president has observed: "There are only so many base jumpers in the world."
True enough, but there is another adjacent market that is much larger: Sports enthusiasts who don't tempt fate every time they practice their pastime (that's most sportspeople, after all). Extreme sports already serve as a proof of concept: A GoPro delivers much higher performance and versatility in a dynamic environment.
I think GoPro may have bitten off more than it can chew in trying to achieve mass appeal. Consumer electronics is brutally competitive. Unless you're Apple, which has built an entire ecosystem of products and services, you're probably better off adopting a niche strategy.
Keith Noonan: Since before it went public, GoPro has touted its intentions to become a media company, and the extent to which it can accomplish this feat will play a big role in any potential turnaround.
With sales slipping even as content uploads see substantial increases, the strength of the company's media network as a stand-alone entity and advertising apparatus is increasingly called into question. Demonstrating that it has a workable model with professional partnerships and user-generated content for its media network is a much needed step, and it would be encouraging to see GoPro's R&D and sales and marketing spend increased to produce results with those goals in mind -- even at the expense of short-term profitability.
The GoPro Awards initiative, which sees the company handing out up to $5 million in annual prize money for top-quality content, seems to be a step in the right direction, but it also suggests that the company has a long way to go before its media strategy is solidified as a workable long-term entity. User-generated content can be a great asset for GoPro, but in the context of what other media companies spend on content production and advertising, the current setup of the company's awards platform might be an indication that GoPro is not doing enough to incentivize and reward the addition of top-quality videos to its network.
GoPro has already established an array of partnerships, and lining up additional partners would certainly be welcome -- but greater progress and results on the media network front are needed. Positive momentum in this area, even if it means increasing spending during a rough stretch, is key to the company's long-term health.
Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned. Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. Timothy Green has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and GoPro. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.