Numerous tech stocks have been in a rough patch since March. More than a year after the start of the pandemic, some investor focus has shifted away from high-growth tech stocks and toward "economic reopening" bets.
However, technology trends like e-commerce, digital payments, and digital advertising were cemented into place by COVID-19 and will remain high-growth stories for the foreseeable future. Three stocks in particular -- Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY), and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) -- are fantastic buys right now if you plan to hold for the long term.
1. Shopify: E-commerce is for the masses ... and for entrepreneurs
I frequently write about Shopify, but it's been a while since I've added to my existing position in this stock. That's because it hasn't been cheap lately. Shopify traded at an especially high premium after surging in value last spring, when it became apparent the pandemic was driving a massive influx of new shoppers and aspiring entrepreneurs to its platform. But after trading in choppy up-and-down fashion since last summer, I'm ready to start buying again. Shopify still trades for a hefty 41 times trailing 12-month revenue, but for good reason.
For one thing, I love its mission to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed in a new era of e-commerce. It supports over 1.7 million merchants worldwide and expects to add plenty more this year, even as in-person retail makes a comeback with vaccine rollouts. Total revenue surged 110% in Q1, but Shopify management warns the rate will moderate as 2021 progresses. However, it forecasts revenue to continue growing at a rapid rate as it sells more merchant subscriptions at a faster clip than at any time prior to the pandemic (subscription revenue grew 38% in 2019). Management also said merchant services growth will be more comparable to subscription revenue growth than in the recent past (it grew 54% in 2019).
Put another way, Shopify isn't going to double the size of its revenue again like it did in 2020. But this hypergrowth story is far from finished. Shopify's capabilities, including integrated digital payments, credit solutions for small businesses, and its fulfillment network, make this a powerful player in the world of e-commerce.
There's also the matter of profitability. Free cash flow increased nearly 1,200% in the last year as Shopify went from negligible profitability to positive $615 million in the last 12-month stretch. That run will continue in the years to come as the company reaches a more efficient scale.
Premium stock price aside, Shopify is accomplishing incredible things and is a great buy for the long haul.
2. Etsy: Adding a personal touch to online shopping
Etsy's story is similar to Shopify's. Stuck at home but flush with cash, shoppers have flocked to the platform over the last year, drawn by the unique items listed by craftspeople on Etsy's online marketplace. At the end of March, active buyers were up 90% from the same time in 2020 to 90.7 million. And many people are looking to make some money from their talent.
Etsy is also a supporter of small businesses and self-employment. Sellers on the platform increased 67% year over year to 4.7 million at the end of March.
The result? Etsy obliterated expectations during the first quarter of 2021. Gross merchandise sold (GMS) surged 132% year over year to $3.14 billion, leading to a 142% increase in revenue to $551 million. Adjusted EBITDA (Etsy's preferred method of measuring bottom-line profitability progress) jumped 234% higher to $184 million, good for an adjusted EBITDA profit margin of 33%.
In spite of its fantastic run over the last year, worry has nonetheless cropped up that Etsy's progress might reverse course as the economy reopens. Not so. Lapping a huge surge in activity last spring, management issued an outlook for GMS growth between 5% and 15% and revenue growth of 15% to 25% in Q2, and an adjusted EBITDA profit margin of at least 25%. It's a slowdown from the most recent headline numbers, but nonetheless extends Etsy's run as a double-digit percentage growth e-commerce site.
Etsy still represents a tiny fraction of the total retail industry and should remain a top play, as it adds a personal touch to the online shopping experience. At 10.5 times trailing 12-month sales and 27 times trailing 12-month free cash flow, Etsy stock looks like a fantastic long-term bargain.
3. Facebook: Digital ads are only the beginning
Facebook is a far less noble business in many investors' minds than Shopify or Etsy, owing to Facebook's advertising-based business model and its fast-and-loose practices surrounding user privacy. Regardless of your opinion of the social media giant, though, it isn't the only media company that relies heavily on ads. Plus, the tech giant is putting in lots of work to diversify its business.
Specifically, its "other revenue" line item surged 146% higher in Q1 to $732 million -- still just 2.8% of total revenue, but nonetheless fast progress, driven primarily by the Oculus virtual reality subsidiary. Facebook's top brass is investing heavily here in a bet that augmented and virtual reality will be "the next computing platform." Millions of businesses around the world also rely on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to connect with customers. Facebook is building out its cloud-based capabilities, especially through WhatsApp chat features, to deepen its relationship with these small businesses and merchants. A digital payments business is also in its nascency in India and recently got approval in Brazil too.
Given that the Facebook family of social apps has a staggering 2.85 billion active monthly users, it's not a stretch to imagine the company being able to foster new lines of business in a move away from its ads-only operating model. Thus, in spite of its massive size, this is still very much a growth company. Total revenue in Q1 2021 was up 48% year over year to $26.2 billion, and a similar rate is forecast for Q2 as the initial pandemic lockdown is lapped. Free cash flow generated in the first quarter was $7.97 billion, illustrating the massive influx of excess cash Facebook has at its disposal.
After the latest quarterly update, Facebook stock trades for 38 times trailing 12-month free cash flow. The company is growing fast, is highly profitable, and is using its bottom line to invest heavily beyond the world of digital ads. This tech stock is still worth owning for the foreseeable future.