Snap's (SNAP 10.71%) stock more than doubled this year as Snapchat stopped shedding daily active users (DAUs), its average revenue per user (ARPU) kept climbing, and its losses narrowed. Its DAUs stayed flat sequentially and annually at 186 million last quarter, but that marked the first time it didn't lose users in three quarters.
Snap's ARPU also jumped 37% annually on higher views of video ads, the rising viewership of its Publisher Stories and Original Shows, and its overseas expansion into Europe, the Middle East, and India. Its net loss narrowed from $350 million to $192 million.
Those numbers indicated that Facebook's (FB 1.41%) Instagram hadn't killed Snapchat yet. They also suggested that Snap's stock, which remains about 30% below its IPO price, might recover. Here are four fresh catalysts that could drive Snap's stock higher this year.
1. Snap Games
Snap recently launched "Snap Games," an in-app social gaming platform that lets Snapchat users play free, ad-supported games like Bitmoji Party, Tiny Royale, and Zombie Rescue Squad without leaving the app.
The idea of in-app games isn't a fresh one, since Tencent's WeChat and Facebook's Messenger both offer games for their mobile app users. However, Snap Games might boost engagement rates among Snapchat users, lock them in for longer periods, and expose them to more ads -- which would boost its ARPU.
Snap also recently unveiled Scan, an AR (augmented reality) platform that lets developers easily add AR features to the Snapchat camera. For example, Scan lets Photomath users solve math problems with the camera, and it lets Giphy identify real-world objects and spawn related GIFs on-screen.
This platform could attract more developers to Snapchat, and it complements the app's other abilities -- which include identifying songs on Shazam and visually searching for products on Amazon. It also complements Lens Studio, the AR lens platform it launched in late 2017. The addition of more AR features to Snapchat could convince the platform's DAUs to spend more time using the app.
3. Snap Kit and Audience Network
Snap's strategy of opening up its platform to developers is also reflected in its introduction of Snap Kit, which lets developers integrate Snapchat features -- like Bitmoji stickers, Snapchat logins, and "Share to Snapchat" buttons -- into their own mobile apps.
This platform could serve as the foundation of Snapchat's upcoming Audience Network, which will display its ads in other apps. That strategy, which mirrors the combination of Facebook's shared logins and Audience Network, could significantly boost Snap's ad revenue.
4. New Snap Originals
When Snap launched "Snap Originals," a batch of five-minute original shows for Snapchat's Discover section, it seemed like a risky move. But at the time, I noted that Snap was essentially breaking up a full single episode of a show into five-minute segments, and displaying two to three ads per segment.
That strategy enabled Snapchat to play more ads during its Original shows than full-length shows on other traditional platforms. Snap recently unveiled 10 new Snap Original shows to expand that lineup, so it clearly thinks the platform can lock in Snapchat users and boost its video ad impressions.
But will these catalysts hold Instagram at bay?
Snap has evolved considerably over the past two years, and its turnaround efforts now seem more focused on locking in its users and widening its moat against Instagram. But it's still unclear if those efforts will pay off, and its revenue growth is still decelerating. Snap's stock isn't cheap, at about 10 times this year's sales, and its insiders only bought 1.5 million shares over the past three months while selling 5.4 million shares.
I might buy a small, speculative stake in Snap at these levels, but I'd wait to see if these aforementioned catalysts ignite meaningful growth over the next few quarters before building up a bigger position.