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3 Stocks That Feel Like Microsoft in 1986

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Want to get in early on a few stocks that hold tremendous long-term potential? Here are three to consider.

Investors who bought into Microsoft's (MSFT -1.32%) growth story early and held on for the long term minted themselves an absolute fortune. So which stocks do we think will go on to produce life-changing returns for their investors from here? We asked a team of investors to weigh in, and they picked Match Group (MTCH), Shopify (SHOP -5.48%), and CommerceHub (NASDAQ: CHUBA).

Find the right match for your portfolio

Dan Caplinger (Match Group): There's nothing new about trying to find romance, but there's been a revolutionary change in the way that people seek out potential partners. Match Group has tapped into the needs of the mobile generation by extending its traditional online dating service to the app world, with its popular Tinder platform seeing its membership rolls nearly double in 2017 to 3.1 million members. Overall, Match has more than 7 million subscribers across all of its offerings.

Match has found ways to turn its leadership in the dating space into cash, with the success of Tinder Gold premium helping to boost average revenue per user by nearly a third for the app. Like many relatively young companies, Match is still in a position in which it has to spend considerable amounts on expenses related to obtaining and keeping new customers, but as the network effect of Match's products increases, the payoff will be able to get larger even as new customer acquisition costs could fall. With plans to add new features that improve the experience and add more opportunities for revenue, Match Group is pushing all the right buttons in trying to cash in on customers looking for love.

Business man riding arrows up and away

Image source: Getty Images.

High switching costs and a powerful network effect

Brian Stoffel (Shopify): If you look back to what has made Microsoft such a great investment, the ubiquity of the Office Suite has to be Exhibit A. Competitors have been trying for over two decades to match Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

While Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google sheets and docs have gotten close, they still haven't unseated the king. In the end, the entire world is trained on this platform. That makes the switching costs and network effects extremely high -- no one wants to use a tool that no one else is using!

In Shopify -- a company that helps just about any business establish an e-commerce presence -- I see the same two moats taking shape. Any small or medium-sized business would have to pay sky-high costs -- not only in fees and services, but also lost business, headaches, and retraining -- to migrate its website, logistics, and online presence away from Shopify and to one of its competitors.

And because Shopify has been winning over merchants in droves, it has attracted a host of third-party app developers. These developers are building their apps on Shopify's platform because it has over 500,000 merchants. The flourishing ecosystem of apps will attract even more merchants. It's a virtuous cycle -- the kind that helped launch Microsoft to the fore back in the late 1980s.

While Shopify is surely an expensive stock by traditional metrics, I see the markings of a great company in the works. Time will tell if my hunch proves correct, but I have my own skin in the game, as I believe the network effect and high switching costs are significant.

Helping retailers enter the 21st century

Brian Feroldi (CommerceHub): The recent wave of retail bankruptcies demonstrates just how much consumer buying habits are changing. In order to survive, brands and retailers everywhere are investing in their e-commerce capabilities so they won't be forced to close up shop one day. However, finding success with an e-commerce strategy isn't easy. That's why scores of companies are turning to CommerceHub for help.

CommerceHub sells access to a cloud-based platform that links suppliers, delivery services, brands, and demand channels together. Gaining access to this platform makes it much easier for companies to meet their customers' demands and remain competitive. As a testament to CommerceHub's capabilities, major companies like Walgreens, Guess, Dell, Kohl's and many others have already signed up.

Looking ahead, the continued shift toward e-commerce sales should entice holdouts to partner with CommerceHub before it is too late. That should power the company's revenue and profits higher for years to come. While the stock is not exactly cheap at the moment -- it trades around 70 times trailing earnings -- I think that investors who take the long view can do very well for themselves by picking up a few shares today.

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Stocks Mentioned

Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
$256.83 (-1.32%) $-3.43
Shopify Inc. Stock Quote
Shopify Inc.
$31.24 (-5.48%) $-1.81
Match Group, Inc. Stock Quote
Match Group, Inc.

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