Companies that can tap into, shape, and benefit from powerful industry trends will typically post fantastic growth and deliver strong returns for investors. While it may be tempting to try to analyze and time the heights of certain stocks, history has shown that identifying innovative companies operating at the heart of powerful growth trends is the best path to making life-changing investments.
1. Fastly: Lots of opportunities to shape commercial internet
Fastly stock skyrocketed this year thanks to surging demand for its edge computing services. Investors poured into the company's stock as coronavirus-related conditions elevated the use of digital communications as well as the company's sales and valuation. However, Fastly stock now trades well off recent highs, even though the business has a promising long-term growth outlook.
Its share price plummeted following revised third-quarter sales targets (and subsequently published results) that came in significantly below previous guidance, and after the news that the company had lost business from the TikTok social media platform. Shares are down about 50% from the all-time high that they hit last month, and the company now has a market capitalization of roughly $7 billion. It trades at roughly 25 times this year's expected sales.
Fastly might continue to face some near-term headwinds related to lower-than-expected demand from some large customers, but the long-term outlook for edge computing services is still exciting. Edge computing shifts late stages of cloud computing processes to data centers that are closer to users trying to access data, thereby significantly increasing the speed at which information is processed and content is delivered.
With more communication through digital channels, web applications including more complex features and processes, and growing strain on networks, edge computing will likely be increasingly essential for many businesses. It's easy to forget that the commercial internet is still relatively young and Fastly will have opportunities to shape (and capitalize on) its continued evolution.
2. Activision Blizzard
Long-term growth for the gaming industry is a safe bet, and top companies in the space will likely deliver great returns for shareholders. Activision Blizzard boasts a leading industry position. Its collection of high-profile video game franchises and time-tested development studios have the company on track to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the growth in global gaming.
Activision Blizzard is responsible for hit franchises including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, and Candy Crush Saga, and it's poised for strong performance thanks to a multitude of competitive strengths and favorable industry trends. Billions of people around the world already play video games, but the addressable market for interactive entertainment is positioned for big growth as the global population expands, mobile and internet technologies make games more accessible, and more people grow up with gaming as a hobby.
Activision Blizzard knows how to play the game when it comes to launching and sustaining hit franchises. And it has huge opportunities for growth as it bridges more properties to mobile platforms and takes advantage of the rapidly expanding global gaming audience. The company has other tailwinds as well.
It should see continued benefits from a higher-margin sales mix as consumers increase spending on virtual goods and currencies, and more games are sold via digital downloads rather than at stores like GameStop. Activision Blizzard is also a leader in the fast-growing esports space. It could even get a substantial performance boost from licensed merchandise for its hit games. This is a leader in a secular growth industry that's already putting up strong performance, with plenty of ways to build on its winning streak.
Try to imagine a future in which people do less of their shopping online. Maybe such a scenario could occur, but you probably wouldn't want to bet on it.
The increased speed and convenience of buying online offer huge value for the average person, and shoppers have access to a much wider variety of goods. Overwhelming evidence and the simple nature of incentives point to massive long-term expansion for e-commerce even after dramatic growth over the last few decades.
As impressive as the rise of e-commerce has been in the U.S., the size, momentum, and long-term outlook for China's online retail market are even more impressive. China has a population of roughly 1.4 billion people, and rapid growth for the country's economy will bring hundreds of millions of people into the middle class in the coming decades. China accounts for more than half of global e-commerce, and eMarketer estimates that annual online retail spending in the country will rise from $1.94 trillion in 2019 to roughly $4.1 trillion in 2023.
Investors looking to benefit from the continued growth of the Chinese e-commerce market should consider building a position in Baozun. The Shanghai-based company provides retail-website creation tools, marketing, and a range of related services. For now, most of the company's sales come from large Western brands eager to tap into China's massive online retail market. But Baozun is also devoting more resources to bringing large Chinese brands on board its platform.
Perhaps even more intriguing, the company also has a platform for small and medium-size domestic businesses. As China's economy continues to expand and more people enter the middle class, more of its citizens will be starting businesses. That means that there will likely be a huge increase in demand for e-commerce services. If Baozun can establish itself as a go-to option for small businesses in China, similar to what Shopify has accomplished in the U.S., its earnings and stock price could explode.
Baozun's relatively small size represents another appealing aspect of the stock. With a market capitalization of roughly $3 billion, the company still has huge room for growth and the potential to bring life-changing returns for investors who build positions today and hold for the long term.