The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant shift in the way people work, with shelter-in-place orders and lockdowns sending a hefty chunk of the workforce across the globe toward remote work as offices have shuttered to contain the spread of COVID-19. Surveys conducted by third parties and compiled by IT company Riverbed Technology reveal that 88% of organizations have implemented remote working models, with 31% of the respondents suggesting that COVID-19 has triggered the shift.
However, 54% of human resources executives surveyed see weak infrastructure as a barrier to remote working. Not surprisingly, demand for technology solutions that help employees work smoothly from remote locations has been on the rise during the pandemic. Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM) and Twilio (NYSE:TWLO) are two such companies that have benefited from the shift to remote working, delivering huge gains to investors in the process.
And it looks like they won't be slowing down any time soon, given the rising numbers of infections in the U.S. and across the globe.
1. Zoom Video's terrific rally isn't done yet
Zoom Video Communications has gone from strength to strength amid the pandemic. Its first-quarter revenue was up 169%, compared to 78% annual growth in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020. The company expects further acceleration in the second quarter of fiscal 2021. Its guidance calls for year-over-year revenue growth of 241% at the mid-point of its $495 million-to-$500 million revenue range.
The company expects 462% growth in its adjusted earnings this quarter to $0.45 per share, and 189% revenue growth for fiscal 2021 to $1.8 billion, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the company do better. In India, for instance, the government has relaxed work-from-home norms for information technology (IT) companies until the end of the year. Reports suggest that 90% of India's 4.3 million IT employees have been working remotely since March this year.
Similar developments are underway in the U.S. as well, where companies are giving employees the flexibility to work from anywhere on a permanent basis. Amazon recently said that its corporate employees can work remotely until January 2021. It looks like remote work is here to stay, as employers can reportedly save $11,000 annually on an employee that's working remotely for at least half of their time, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Similarly, the pandemic has also given online learning a shot in the arm. According to UNESCO data, the number of students impacted by school closures rose from less than 300 million in February this year to 1.38 billion by the end of March. As a result, schools and other educational institutions have been adopting online learning to ensure continuity of education. This has created a market for Zoom's education-centric plans, which start at $1,800 a year for the basic offering with 20 hosts and no add-ons.
Driven by these tailwinds, the global video conferencing market is anticipated to hit $50 billion in revenue by 2026, compared to $14 billion last year, according to Global Market Insights. Zoom is in a great position to take advantage of this growth, as it controls nearly 43% of the web conferencing market in the U.S. The company is also seeing healthy growth in the Asia Pacific market, where it recorded 148% growth in the first quarter of 2020, according to Synergy Research.
All in all, a combination of healthy end-market growth and Zoom's leading position in the space makes it one of the top tech stocks to take advantage of the boom in video conferencing.
2. COVID-19 has accelerated Twilio's business
Cloud communications specialist Twilio has got a shot in the arm thanks to the pandemic, as organizations have accelerated their transition from legacy setups to the cloud. That's the reason why Cowen & Co.'s Derrick Wood recently hiked his price target on the stock from $230 a share to a Wall Street-high of $260.
Traditional contact centers require customer service associates to be seated closely in a confined space. But a cloud-based contact center isn't held back by such limitations -- associates can attend to customer calls from the comforts of their homes with a laptop and an internet connection. Not surprisingly, contact centers are increasingly moving more agents to a work-from-home model with the help of the cloud.
According to a survey of associates carried out by customer experience company Genesys, only 14% of the respondents were working from home at the end of last year. By mid-April this year, 71% of those customer service associates were working remotely as the coronavirus gripped the globe. Twilio has taken advantage of this shift, as the pace of its revenue and earnings growth blew past expectations in the first quarter.
The company saw a solid jump in sign-ups after the pandemic struck and customers started spending more money on its offerings. That was evident from Twilio's dollar-based net expansion rate of 143%, compared to 142% in the prior-year period. The metric increases when Twilio customers increase their use of the company's products, purchase additional services, or buy new products.
More importantly, the slowdown in industries such as hospitality, travel, and ridesharing hasn't had a huge negative impact on Twilio thanks to growth in healthcare, education, and other areas. The company also points out that the industries negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus have been averaging less than 10% of its total revenue over the past few quarters.
Twilio's top 10 customers also supply just 15% of its total revenue. The company's focus on diversification has turned out to be a tailwind in these difficult times, after a major scare back in 2017 caused by its reliance on one account for a big chunk of revenue.
The cloud-enabled contact center market is anticipated to clock a compound annual growth rate of 25% through 2022, when it is expected to be worth nearly $21 billion, according to a third-party estimate. So Twilio has a lot of room for growth considering that it generated $1.13 billion in revenue last year.
Should you still buy them?
Zoom Video Communications and Twilio are riding high on the shift in work culture caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. But the good part is that the catalysts that they are sitting on could last beyond the pandemic as the discussion above tells us.
But buying into these high-growth stocks won't come cheap. Zoom trades at a whopping 92 times sales and 1,460 times trailing earnings. The forward earnings multiple of 204 isn't cheap either. However, Zoom could justify these rich multiples by growing at terrific rates thanks to its market share and the lucrative opportunity in the video conferencing industry.
Similarly, Twilio trades at an expensive 28 times sales. But the shift toward cloud-based contact centers could help it sustain its momentum and deliver more upside in the long run.