You're not going to find many stocks that have done better than Amazon (AMZN 2.97%) over the last 20 years. Since its initial public offering in 1997, the e-commerce giant is up an incredible 101,000%. In other words, $1,000 invested in the company would now be worth more than $1 million.
Amazon investors recently celebrated as the stock crossed both the $2,000-per-share mark and $1 trillion in market cap, though it has since pulled back from both of those milestones. Even after that incredible run, plenty of investors are still bullish on Amazon -- nearly 100% of analysts covering the stock give it a buy rating.
However, with a market cap near $1 trillion and relatively little profit, it will be much more difficult for Amazon stock to double from here. If you're looking for Amazon's kind of disruptive potential in a smaller package, you may want to consider investing in JD.com (JD 2.28%), Redfin (RDFN 5.77%), or Tesla (TSLA 7.82%). Here's why:
The Chinese Amazon
Arguably, no company bears a closer resemblance to Amazon than JD.com, the fast-growing Chinese e-commerce business. Though Alibaba is much larger by market cap than JD, JD is actually bigger by total revenue. Alibaba serves as a platform for third-party sellers, while JD both engages in direct selling and functions as a marketplace, just as Amazon does. In its most recent quarter, JD's revenue jumped 31% to $18.5 billion, but the stock has sold off recently as the company has missed earnings expectations for three quarters in a row. The recent arrest of CEO Richard Liu also pushed shares lower, though he was quickly released and allowed to return to China; no charges were filed.
Considering that pullback and other factors, JD seems to resemble Amazon in 2014, the last time Amazon was reporting quarterly losses and the stock was below $300. JD today seems to be going through an investment cycle similar to Amazon's then. The company is blanketing China with warehouses, having added 186 over the past year -- more than one every two days -- mirroring an expansion Amazon went through a few years ago.
Meanwhile, JD is also investing heavily in automation. It has a warehouse in Shanghai with just four employees, all of whom maintain the robots that handle picking, packing, and shipping at the facility. It's also experimenting with drone delivery. The company has its eye on expansion in the U.S. and Europe, signaling the size of its ambitions.
With the company's fast growth, aggressiveness in e-commerce, and embrace of technology, it very much looks like a Chinese version of Amazon. If its recent investments in warehouses and other technologies pay off, the stock could spike over the coming years just as Amazon's has.
A real-estate disruptor
Ever since Amazon's beginnings, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has set out to make customer focus the company's signature asset. Amazon's vision is "to be Earth's most customer-centric company," and its so-called customer obsession is a big reason for the company's success.
Redfin, the online real estate brokerage, similarly puts the customer at the center of its strategy, saying in its prospectus:
We put the customer first. We do this by pairing our own agents with our own technology to create a service that is faster, better, and costs less. We meet customers through our listings-search website and mobile application, reducing the marketing costs that can keep fees high. We let homebuyers schedule home tours with a few taps of a mobile-phone button, so it's easy to try our service. We create an immersive online experience for every Redfin-listed home and then promote that listing to more buyers than any traditional brokerage can reach through its own website. We use machine learning to recommend better listings than any customer could find on her own. And we pay Redfin lead agents based in part on customer satisfaction, not just commission, so we're on the customer's side.
The U.S. real estate market is massive, with the entirety of U.S. housing stock valued around $32 trillion, and the domestic real estate brokerage industry generates $155 billion in annual revenue. Considering that that market is essentially made up of intermediaries, it looks ripe for disruption, especially in the era of mobile technology, which has made old ways of doing business obsolete.
Redfin, with its focus on reorienting the buying and selling process in real estate, looks primed to do just that. Revenue jumped 36% to $142.6 million in its most recent quarter, and it continued to gain market share. A recent sell-off in the stock also set up a buying opportunity for investors.
A wide-open opportunity
By now, Tesla is a household name among investors. The electric-car maker has both a closely watched ticker -- with a volatile performance this year -- and a closely watched CEO.
But the real reason Tesla might appeal to Amazon investors is an under-the-radar factor that has driven Amazon's growth: optionality, which is a company's ability to expand into new categories. Amazon has done this many times over, breaking into cloud computing, voice-activated technology, video streaming, a third-party marketplace, advertising, and other businesses that have served to make the company stronger.
Tesla operates similarly. Though the company is best-known as an electric-car maker, it also has initiatives in other emerging industries that could make it a dominant force in renewable energy. Tesla's ownership of Solar City gives it a strong position in residential solar installations, and innovations like the Powerwall and Powerpack, the Gigafactory, and its supercharger network all give the company significant competitive advantages in a future where energy revolves around lithium-ion batteries. In fact, some see the company's true business as ultimately being energy storage rather than car manufacturing.
Like Amazon, Tesla has also succeeded by delighting customers; demand for its vehicles exceeds supply many times over. Though the company has challenges ahead, including difficult production goals for the Model 3 and questions about Musk's focus amid a series of controversial actions, surviving this phase could be its last obstacle to long-term profitability.
The stock is one of a very few that has the ability to deliver an Amazon kind of growth, because the company can launch a wide range of high-tech products and also generate customer excitement.
While there are a number of lessons to take away from Amazon's unbelievable run, it's clear that focus on customers, optionality, and fast growth in emerging industries have been keys to the company's blockbuster performance. Companies that also possess those strengths are more likely to outperform over the long run.