This article was updated Nov. 10, 2017, and originally published on June 30, 2017.
Investors are always looking for that home run stock, the one that turns thousands into millions, allowing them to retire early and live out their lives in relative comfort. The problem is that this is easier said than done. Not only are these ultra-successful companies notoriously hard to find in their early days, but you need to buy them early enough in their history to make a difference.
Investor psychology also comes into play, and buying the right company is only half the battle. Many investors have purchased such a company, only to sell when times get tough and the company faces challenges, or when the stock price doubles or triples. Life-changing gains are only possible if you hold a stock through the inevitable ups and downs that occur in the life of every business.
Let's focus on the first half of the equation -- identifying a company that has the potential to return many times its original investment. One thing investors can do is identify a growing trend or catalyst and a company that is uniquely positioned to capitalize on that trend. E-commerce is a great example of a powerful trend that is changing the way consumers transact business. One company that is poised to reap the rewards of this transformational change is Shopify Inc. (NYSE:SHOP).
Effective solution with powerful friends
Shopify is an e-commerce platform that makes it easy for small- and medium-sized businesses to set up and run an online store, including processing payments. For many, this may seem like a no-brainer, but the majority of mom-and-pop shops don't have the resources or the know-how to make that happen and the same holds true for many companies that don't have a large enough budget to support an IT department.
Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) previously competed with the company via its Webstore platform. After a time, not only did Amazon announce that it would shutter its offering, but then entered into a series of agreements that made Shopify's platform its preferred provider and shifted its existing customers to Shopify. This culminated early in 2017 in the ability for Amazon vendors to integrate their sales channels directly with their Shopify account. This is a compelling vote of confidence from the largest provider of e-commerce in the world.
Shopify provides 100 ready-to-use templates and more than 1,500 apps to customize the user experience for the shoppers of each business. It can also accept and process credit card payments and track orders. Shopify's offerings also integrate with major payment processors and third-party logistics services, while negotiating discounted shipping rates for volume users. The company provides a number of monthly subscription plans that cater to the size of the company and meet a variety of business needs.
Producing solid results
Shopify has been producing persuasive financial results as well. In the third quarter of 2017, revenue grew to $171.5 million, a 72% increase over the prior-year quarter. Monthly recurring revenue increased to $26.8 million, up 65% year over year, while gross merchandise volume jumped to $6.4 billion, a whopping 69% increase over the prior-year period. Shopify has been forgoing profits to grow the business, and produced a net loss of $9.4 million this quarter, though the company just posted its first-ever non-GAAP profit.
Shopify has grown its revenue in excess of 72% year over year in each of the nine quarters since the company went public. Gross merchandise volume has shown a similar trajectory at more than 69% year-over-year growth. The company has lately been focusing on expanding its solutions for large, high-volume merchants. Shopify believes that this could provide the next big growth opportunity for the company. Enterprise businesses that use the Shopify Plus tier, which serves this segment of the market, currently account for 20% of the company's recurring revenue, up from 15% in the prior-year quarter.
The bottom line
Shopify has produced some impressive results that have led some to speculate that it could be acquired, though buying stock in a company in hopes that it gets acquired for a big premium wouldn't be a very smart move because no one knows what the future holds. The company isn't resting on its laurels and recently introduced a new chip and swipe reader, and made it easier for merchants to sell wholesale to select buyers without revealing those prices to retail customers. The latest short-attack notwithstanding, Shopify is still executing on its mission to "make commerce better for everyone."
E-commerce is a huge trend, which currently accounts for 8.2% of retail sales in the U.S., up from just 3.5% in 2007. Shopify provides merchants of all sizes the tools they need to tap into this paradigm shift. It has shown a remarkable customer-centric focus and successfully navigated the early days of its existence. There's no way to know for sure if Shopify will be a millionaire-maker stock, but it does have the makings of a successful investment going forward.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Amazon and Shopify. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Shopify. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.