The run up on Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) stock has already turned a $10,000 investment at its initial public offering price in May 2015 into $357,000. It has a total market value of $109 billion at the current share price around $915, despite the fact that it hasn't reported a full-year profit yet.
It's up for debate whether the stock is a screaming buy at these levels, but there are plenty of reasons why investors should consider at least a small position in the stock with the intent to gradually add to it over time. Here are 10 reasons to consider the stock.
1. Shopify is still a small fish in a big pond
Global e-commerce sales will reach $3.914 trillion in 2020, according to estimates from eMarketer. Now consider that the total value of goods purchased over Shopify's merchant platform totaled just $61 billion in 2019.
That huge market opportunity explains why Shopify's gross merchandise volume (GMV) grew 49% last year and 46% in the first quarter of 2020. Even after all that growth, Shopify's GMV commands just a few percentage points of global e-commerce sales.
2. 1 million merchants down, 28 million to go
Last year, Shopify crossed an important milestone of signing up the 1 millionth merchant on its platform. But that's nothing compared to the 28.8 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the Small Business Administration.
3. Worldwide opportunity is massive
You start to get a sense of why investors have bid Shopify stock up to a market value of $100 billion when looking at how many merchants are out there. The International Finance Corporation estimates there are between 85 million to 100 million micro, small, and medium-sized businesses in developing countries.
Combining that with the U.S., that's a potential market opportunity of around 125 million merchants worldwide.
4. Robust revenue growth
Shopify is well on its way to capturing a good slice of its addressable market opportunity. In the first quarter, revenue grew in tandem with GMV, climbing 47% year over year.
Shopify generates revenue from various services, including payment processing fees (Shopify Payments) and loans to merchants (Shopify Capital). In the last quarter, merchant solutions increased 57% to $282.4 million.
Subscription solutions revenue climbed 34% year over year to reach $187.6 million, driven by new merchants joining the platform, strong app growth, and growth in the highest-tier subscription service, Shopify Plus, which is designed for large merchants.
5. A rising e-commerce juggernaut
After tallying sales from all its U.S. merchants in 2019, Shopify estimated that its platform would rank as the second-largest e-commerce retailer in the U.S.
6. Large merchants are starting to sign up
The heart of Shopify's mission is to help small businesses and entrepreneurs start selling online. Most of its merchants are on subscription plans that cost less than $50 per month, but for large corporations with complex needs, there is Shopify Plus starting at $2,000 per month.
During the first-quarter conference call, COO Harley Finkelstein said: "On Shopify Plus, verticals we've never seen before like food stores are showing up." He cited two examples. Heinz, operated by Kraft Heinz, just joined Shopify Plus in April, as did the chocolate maker Lindt.
Finkelstein elaborated on why merchants find Shopify's services appealing: "This pandemic is forcing all kinds of merchants to rethink how they sell things, and Shopify Plus offers larger merchants the ability to move fast while managing costs, especially important at a time when economics are pressured."
7. Broadening its footprint to fulfillment services
Last year, Shopify made a game-changing acquisition of 6 River Systems, a cloud-based software and robotics provider that bolsters its plans to grow the Shopify Fulfillment Network. This network of warehouses will help small businesses match the shipping speed of Amazon.com in a cost-effective manner. It certainly has the potential to attract a new wave of small merchants who have been on the fence.
Shopify plans to develop its fulfillment capabilities over a five-year timeline. But the demand for this service is already strong. During the first-quarter conference call, Shopify reported that fulfilled volume in the first quarter was greater than in the previous quarter.
8. Shopify is a cash machine in waiting
Some investors might be concerned about Shopify's lack of profit. Since its IPO in 2015, Shopify's net loss has steadily widened, now sitting at a loss of $132 million on a trailing basis. But Shopify is capable of turning a profit over time.
Shopify blamed its first-quarter net loss of $31.4 million on operating expenses related to 6 River Systems, increased marketing expenses, and an increase in the allowance for losses related to Shopify Payments and Shopify Capital due to COVID-19.
Shopify spent 30% of its revenue last year on sales and marketing expenses. That is a high level, but in the 2019 annual report, Shopify states that this will decline in the future: "Sales and marketing expenses are expected to increase in absolute dollars, but over time, we expect sales and marketing expenses will eventually decline as a percentage of total revenues."
The reduction of marketing spending should be a source of improving operating margin and growing profits down the road.
9. Healthy balance sheet
Even though Shopify has lost $132 million over the last four quarters, it ended the first quarter in March with $2.36 billion of cash and short-term investments and no debt on its balance sheet. It's got cash to invest in the future.
10. Founder and CEO owns a lot of shares
Investing in founder-led companies is a good trick to find winning stocks for the long haul. After a few years of building software to sell snowboards online, Tobi Lutke started Shopify in 2006. Lutke still serves as CEO.
What's more, Lutke has his interests perfectly aligned with shareholders, given his ownership of 253,791 class A shares and 8 million class B shares. Altogether, Lutke controls 34.95% of the voting power of all outstanding shares.
Shopify will continue to be a rewarding growth stock over the long haul. It's got a visionary leader who has skin in the game and a suite of services that both small and, increasingly, large merchants find invaluable in a world that is steadily going digital.