Big things can come in little packages, and the same can be said about investing in small-cap stocks. There will naturally be beefy risks when considering companies with market caps south of $2 billion, but the returns can be substantial if you choose the right ones. 

The RealReal (NASDAQ:REAL) is shaking up the market for second-hand luxury goods. Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (NYSE:SKT) is giving shoppers another way to save on brand-name goods, packing a hearty yield to boot. Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK) is making it easier to cash in on the gig economy with the leading online marketplace for freelancers and contractors.

Here's why those three are among the best small-cap stocks investors can buy this month.

A Tanger outlet center in Fort Worth, with shoppers milling about

Image source: Tanger Factory Outlet Centers.

The RealReal

You may not realize that consignment of luxury goods is a big market, but given the big-ticket prices of high-end clothing, fine jewelry, watches, fine art, and home decor, it's probably easy to see why savvy status-seekers appreciate discounted outlets. There's no shortage of ways to score secondhand goods, but The RealReal stands out as the only platform where all of its wares are authenticated by an expert.

There are now 542,987 active buyers at The RealReal, and revenue climbed 53% in its latest quarter. All of the metrics that matter are pointing higher. Gross merchandise value has soared 48% over the past year. The average order size is growing, clocking in at $438 in the third quarter of last year. The take rate has expanded to 36.8%, and this is a metric worth exploring.

Online marketplaces are known for their thin markups, but things are different when it comes to consignment, where folks are willing to give up a larger chunk of the sale in exchange for a third party doing most of the legwork to make it happen. In a world of bogus goods and shady online transactions, there's also a real value to The RealReal's experts signing off on the luxury goods sold through its platform.

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers has what shoppers want

The RealReal isn't the only company on this list giving shoppers more bang for their bucks. Tanger is a leading operator of factory outlet malls, and it's structured as a real estate investment trust (REIT), so it distributes the lion's share of its funds from operations to its stakeholders.

Tanger isn't the same kind of growth story as The RealReal, but it's holding up nicely in the very shaky world of brick-and-mortar retail. Its occupancy rate stands at a healthy 96%, and those tenants are generally happy. Average tenant sales productivity has increased from $383 to $395 per square foot over the past year. There is always the risk that some of the retail chains paying rent will file for bankruptcy given the shortcomings of their full-priced locations outside of Tanger's portfolio, but that's why a smart mall landlord diversifies across concepts. Along the way, investors are collecting the chunky 8.7% yield.

Upwork

One hot trend that hasn't panned out for investors is the gig economy. Online platforms are making it easier than ever for folks to line up side jobs, but most of the companies that have gone public championing this booming niche are currently trading as broken IPOs. Upwork is one of the dot-com duds, trading below its 2018 IPO price of $15. It operates a growing website where businesses can find freelancers and contractors across roughly 8,000 skill categories. 

Upwork's popularity continues to ascend. Revenue rose 23% in its latest quarter, accelerating from a pace in the teens in the two previous periods. Guidance calls for the year-over-year top-line gain to decelerate to between 17% and 18% for the the fourth quarter, which ended last week, but clearly, it's still moving in the right direction. Getting a bigger (and in many ways better) Upwork than IPO investors did in late 2018 at just two-thirds of the original price sounds like a bargain right now.