E-commerce has already reshaped the business world, but investors should keep in mind that the transformation is still just getting started. Online retail is primed for decades of growth as consumers and enterprises do more of their shopping online, and top players in the space will likely deliver stellar performance for shareholders.
We asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify some of the e-commerce industry's most promising stocks this month. Read on to see why they think Baozun (NASDAQ:BZUN), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) have what it takes to deliver market-crushing returns.
East meets West
Keith Noonan (Baozun): China's large and rapidly expanding online retail industry presents attractive opportunities for growth, and many companies around the world are looking to the market as a key part of their long-term strategies. Baozun is an e-commerce services specialist that's helping businesses turn those ambitions into reality by providing website creation tools, marketing, warehousing, and order fulfillment services to help its partners quickly launch and scale their operations in China.
The company generates revenue from its wide range of service offerings and by taking a cut of sales conducted across its platform. That's a setup that positions Baozun to grow alongside partners using its services, helping to ensure the company tailors its services to the evolving needs of its partners and that it benefits from their continued success.
Most of Baozun's core business revolves around providing services to large Western companies. The company counts major brands including Nike, Microsoft, and Starbucks among its partner list, and it ended the March quarter with 239 major brand partners on its core platform -- up from 200 partners in the prior-year quarter.
Baozun has huge room for growth as the Chinese e-commerce market expands and more brand partners join and build their businesses on its platform. The company also has another product offering that could turn into a performance driver: its platform for small domestic businesses. China is seeing more growth for small businesses than any other major economy, and Baozun's expertise in e-commerce software and services could help it tap into and bolster momentum for small and medium enterprises in the country.
Baozun is already consistently profitable and looks cheap trading at roughly 31 times this year's expected earnings. The company is valued at roughly $2.5 billion and has huge room for long-term growth.
An old name could become a new player
Will Healy (eBay): Admittedly, eBay may seem like a strange pick. Over the last few years, it appeared to become an afterthought as e-commerce giants such as Amazon far outpaced eBay's growth. Moreover, PayPal, the one-time subsidiary that it spun off in 2015, has now built a market cap more than five times the size of eBay's.
In the first quarter, eBay experienced falling revenue and gross merchandise volume. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the report pointed to an end-of-quarter sales surge.
The second-quarter results confirmed this increase. Net revenue moved higher by 18% from the same quarter last year. Also, earnings of $1.08 per diluted share rose by almost 63% from year-ago levels.
Additionally, eBay launched its "Up and Running" accelerator program in early April for sellers. This offered $100 million in support for retailers looking to transition to online sales. It eased the sign-up process and offered a free basic eBay store for three months.
Time will tell how many of these sellers stay with eBay once the company begins to charge for these sites. However, eBay may experience a longer-term benefit from a change at the top. Former eBay executive Jamie Iannone has now returned to the company to take the CEO position.
Iannone returns after previously serving at Walmart as CEO of Sam's Club and COO of Walmart eCommerce. During his time, Walmart orchestrated a turnaround driven in large part by online sales.
The question now hinges on whether Iannone can orchestrate a similar recovery at eBay. eBay stock, which had seen slower stock price growth in recent years, has more than doubled since mid-March. Moreover, the business outlook for both the third quarter and fiscal 2020 points to double-digit increases in revenue growth. Analysts forecast that this will translate into a 24% increase in net income for the year.
Moreover, despite this growth, eBay trades at a forward P/E ratio of approximately 16.2. This means it trades at a substantial discount from Amazon, Walmart, and most other e-commerce stocks.
Analysts predict a more modest earnings growth rate in 2021 as the threat of COVID-19 likely recedes. Nonetheless, if Iannone can build on the e-commerce growth from the pandemic, eBay could again become a growth stock.
Don't overlook this international titan
Joe Tenebruso (Alibaba): When it comes to e-commerce, investors' first thoughts typically focus on Amazon.com. It's certainly understandable, as Amazon dominates online retail in the U.S. and many international markets. But there's one area of the world where Amazon is not the king of e-commerce: China. In the world's most populous nation -- and largest e-commerce market -- Alibaba reigns supreme.
Alibaba controls a roughly 50% share of the online retail market in China, where e-commerce sales are projected to exceed $4 trillion annually by 2023, up from $1.9 trillion in 2019, according to eMarketer. Alibaba generates the bulk of its revenue and profits from its online marketplaces, Tmall and Taobao, primarily from high-margin listing fees and commissions. The e-commerce behemoth has also expanded into a host of digitally enhanced physical store concepts in recent years, including its rapidly expanding supermarket chain, Hema. Additionally, like Amazon, Alibaba is a major force in the fast-growing cloud computing market, with a leading presence in China and a top-five position worldwide.
Better still, Alibaba owns a 33% stake in Ant Group, which operates Alipay, a leading mobile payments service in China. This gives Alibaba's investors another powerful way to profit from the long-term growth of the already massive Chinese e-commerce market. Ant is also rumored to be considering an initial public offering (IPO). Should this occur, and if investors bid up the popular payment company's share price once it joins the public markets, Alibaba's stock price could rise in kind.
All told, Alibaba gives its shareholders many ways to win. And with COVID-19 accelerating the growth of online retail and digital payments in China and other areas of the world, investors who buy shares in this Chinese e-commerce giant today should be well rewarded in the years ahead.