It's not a secret that e-commerce is taking the world by storm. But with countless publicly traded businesses working to squeeze the most out of this promising industry, finding the best e-commerce stocks our market has to offer is easier said than done.
So we asked three top Motley Fool contributors to each find an e-commerce stock they believe investors would do well to buy right now. Read on to learn why they like Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Baozun (NASDAQ:BZUN).
Creating market-beating gains
Steve Symington (Adobe Systems): Shares of Adobe have rocketed nearly 40% so far in 2019 to an all-time high -- and with good reason. The creative software specialist has delivered one record quarter after another, thanks to what Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen described last month as an "explosion in creativity across the globe," as well as the company's wildly successful transition away from perpetual licenses and toward a cloud-based subscription model.
But why might I suggest Adobe as a top e-commerce stock to buy now? Consider its $1.68 billion acquisition of digital commerce specialist Magento just over a year ago, which Narayen noted makes Adobe the "only company with leadership in content creation, marketing, advertising, analytics, and now commerce."
Since then, Adobe has deeply integrated Magento's e-commerce solutions into its own Experience Cloud platform, expanding its value proposition and only further fueling its enviable growth momentum.
Of course, that's not to say there won't be pullbacks along the way. But as the world's appetite for Adobe's industry-leading products continues to swell, I think the stock has many more all-time highs to set, and remains a compelling buy for patient, long-term investors.
A winning bid
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (eBay): eBay's business looks different from that of integrated rivals like Walmart (NYSE:WMT), which maintain massive supply chain and inventory management networks. On the down side, those differences include sluggish growth of about 3% for the online marketplace, compared to Walmart's 37% digital sales spike in mid-2019.
Yet eBay's middleman selling approach means it can generate much stronger profits from a smaller revenue base. In the last quarter, it produced $561 million of operating income, or a whopping 21% of sales, compared to Walmart's 4%.
Investors buying eBay today are betting that its rebound trends, while modest, will continue into 2020 and beyond. The good news is that expectations aren't especially high, given that management originally predicted just 1% sales growth in 2019 and are now calling for a 3% boost.
Meanwhile, shareholders have every reason to look forward to surging cash returns thanks to eBay's new dividend, its rising profitability, and its current strategy aimed at divesting non-core businesses. Put it all together, and this stock represents an attractive combination of strong earnings plus increasing direct capital returns, which is rare to find in the e-commerce industry right now.
The "Shopify of China"
Leo Sun (Baozun): Baozun is often dubbed the Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) of China, since it's a similar all-in-one service that helps businesses set up an online presence with digital storefronts, marketing, logistics, and payment tools, IT and customer relationship management services, and more.
Baozun doesn't face much meaningful competition in this market. Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) was once considered a threat, but it now integrates Baozun's services into its Tmall and Taobao marketplaces to help vendors quickly set up shops. China's economy is slowing down, but demand for Baozun's services is still booming.
Baozun's revenue rose 30% annually last year, as its gross merchandise volume -- the value of all goods sold across its platforms -- rose 54%. To improve its margins, Baozun gradually shifted from a "distribution" model, where it takes possession of merchants' products and helps them fulfill orders, to a "non-distribution" one, where vendors sell and ship their products directly to customers.
That strategy, along with its robust revenue growth, helped Baozun stay consistently profitable. Its adjusted net income rose 30% annually in 2018 as its reported net income increased 29%. Moreover, analysts expect Baozun's top- and bottom-line growth to accelerate with 34% revenue growth and 67% earnings growth this year -- which are stellar growth rates for a stock which trades at just 25 times forward earnings.
The doom and gloom about China, the trade war, and tariffs seem to be casting a dark cloud over Baozun. However, its core business is strong, it doesn't face much competition, and it's still generating robust growth as it faces tough headwinds.