The total global e-commerce market grew 20% year over year to come in at $3.535 trillion, according to research from eMarketer, with e-commerce platforms seeing huge engagement spikes from the shutdowns of retail operations, social distancing, and other situations related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Top players in the space have never looked stronger amid a wide variety of industry tailwinds, and most established e-commerce companies are crushing the broader market this year. (AMZN -0.21%), Alibaba (BABA -2.44%), and Shopify (SHOP -3.21%) stand as the world's biggest e-commerce companies, and each stock has recently gone on to hit new highs.

A hand pushing a miniature shopping cart next to a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.


Amazon currently stands as the most valuable company in the world, with a market capitalization of more than $1.5 trillion. Despite entering 2020 with a staggering size, the e-commerce giant's fantastic business performance has allowed the stock to continue crushing the market this year. There are no signs that "The Everything Company" is slowing down.

AMZN Chart

AMZN data by YCharts.

Amazon delivered another stellar earnings report when it published second-quarter results on July 30, with sales and profit for the period both surpassing the market's expectations. Total sales in the quarter climbed 40% year over year to reach $88.9 billion, and the company's earnings per share soared 97% to come in at $10.30. For comparison, the average Wall Street analyst estimate was calling for earnings per share of just $1.46 on sales of $81.5 billion.

The business is firing on all cylinders, and results in the second quarter illustrate how well positioned the company was to meet shifting retail and services needs spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue from the company's North American e-commerce business climbed 43% year over year to hit $55.4 billion, and international online retail sales jumped 38% year over year to reach $22.7 billion. Amazon's market-leading cloud services platform, which accounts for the majority of profits and has played a huge role in the company's success, also had a great quarter, with sales for the segment rising 29% to $10.8 billion.

Amazon has never looked stronger, and the company is on track to continue playing a leading role in e-commerce and cloud services while exploring a wide range of other growth opportunities.

2. Alibaba

Alibaba is valued at roughly $676 billion, making it the largest Chinese e-commerce company and online retail's second largest company by market cap. 

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BABA data by YCharts.

China accounted for 54.7% (or roughly $1.935 trillion) of last year's total global e-commerce spending, making it the world's largest market for online retail by far. Alibaba is the market leader in the country and commands a market share above 50%.

The company's e-commerce business hinges on two core platforms: Tmall and Taobao. Tmall is a platform tailored for businesses selling to consumers (think, while Taobao is a marketplace platform that's similar to eBay and specializes in consumer-to-consumer sales.

Alibaba is on track to continue dominating China's e-commerce space and benefiting from the industry's long-term growth. The company has avenues to expansion in other digital-services industries as well.

Like Amazon, Alibaba operates a cloud services business. Alibaba also owns a substantial stake in Ant Group, the company responsible for the hugely popular Alipay payment processing services. The company's strong positions in e-commerce, Web services, and payment processing have the business poised to benefit from the growth of China's digital economy.

3. Shopify

Shopify stock has been on a tear this year, propelled by strong business execution and surging demand as a result of the pandemic conditions. It currently has a market cap of approximately $124 billion.

SHOP Chart

SHOP data by YCharts.

The Toronto-based e-commerce services provider surpassed Royal Bank of Canada in May to be become Canada's most valuable company, and the software leader's valuation has continued to climb thanks to another blockbuster quarterly report.

Shopify's second-quarter revenue grew a staggering 97% year over year, and gross merchandise volume across its platform climbed 119% year over year. Evidencing coronavirus-driven momentum for online retail, the number of new stores created on Shopify's platform rose 71% compared with the first quarter. Some of that growth can be traced to the extended free-trial period the company offered, but most of the new stores will probably remain on board with the platform and should start generating subscription revenue in the near future. 

Shopify has been rolling out new features, services, and partnerships to help its merchant partners expand their businesses, and the company is on track to continue delivering impressive growth. Having a versatile online presence will only become more important for businesses as the decade progresses, and Shopify's position as the leading platform services provider should allow it to support and benefit from retail's shift to digital channels.