If the past year has taught us one thing, it's that digital retail is just getting started. Global e-commerce sales topped $4.29 trillion in 2020, up 27.6% year over year, and more than double the $2 trillion in online sales in 2016. That could be just the beginning. Other estimates suggest that e-commerce sales could grow to $6.39 trillion by 2024 (a 10.5% annualized growth rate).  

With that as a backdrop, there are lots of ways to invest in the e-commerce revolution. Amazon (AMZN 0.58%) and Shopify (SHOP 1.25%) are the two most obvious choices. Amazon grew revenue by 38% in 2020, while its net income more than doubled. Shopify's results were even more impressive, with revenue that increased 86% last year, driven by gross merchandise volume (GMV) that soared 96%. The company also turned profitable for the year.

Yet, for those willing to venture outside the box, there are a number of disruptive e-commerce stocks that could potentially generate even more impressive growth than Shopify and Amazon going forward. Let's take a look at three top e-commerce stocks to buy right now.

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Image source: Getty Images.

1. Pinterest: At the intersection of e-commerce and social media

While it's most frequently pigeonholed as a social media stock, Pinterest (PINS 0.02%) has effectively blurred the line with e-commerce. The platform is a visual discovery engine that helps users find, save, and organize things they're passionate about. It also provides a digital scrapbook that acts as a repository where users "pin" their favorite things. People go to the platform, known for its positivity, to become inspired to plan a trip, consider a renovation, or take up baking, among a myriad of other activities -- which often results in an online purchase.

Perhaps most important from an e-commerce aspect, Pinterest makes the majority of its revenue from digital advertising and "promoted pins," and has mastered the act of the virtual soft sell, providing seamless links to items that are already of interest to users. In fact, Pinterest has become the second-largest driver of social media traffic to Shopify. 

Business is booming. In the first quarter, revenue grew 78% year over year, while adjusted net income swung to a profit from a loss in the prior-year quarter. Pinterest has just begun to tap a massive international opportunity, with revenue that grew 170% for the segment. Its customer growth is equally impressive. Monthly active users (MAUs) grew 30% to 478 million.  

Pinterest expects its robust growth to continue and is guiding for year-over-year revenue growth of 105% and MAUs to grow in the mid-teens in the second quarter.

The stock is currently trading at a 26% discount to recent highs, giving in-the-know investors the chance to buy Pinterest's impressive growth at a bargain.

A smiling group of young adults have fun shopping for retro and vintage clothing.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Etsy: A digital shop for handmade, custom, and vintage gifts

While it operates in a small corner of the booming e-commerce space, Etsy (ETSY -0.19%) has carved out a lucrative niche for itself. The company offers a vast array of vintage items, handmade gifts, and custom-made items. Many of the products listed on Etsy's site are unique or one-of-a-kind items that buyers simply wouldn't find elsewhere. The company also has a wide assortment of craft supplies. This provides shoppers with more than 92 million handmade, customized, personalized, and vintage products to choose from. 

Etsy's first-quarter results were a blowout. Revenue grew 142% year over year, while gross merchandise sales (GMS) grew 132%. Unlike many small, high-growth companies, Etsy is already profitable, with net income surging more than 1,000%.

Impressive user growth helped fuel the robust results and the company continues to leverage its growing network effect. Active sellers climbed 67%, while active buyers jumped 90%.

Perhaps more importantly to Etsy's growth story, habitual buyers -- which the company describes as those making six or more purchases, or spending $200 during the preceding 12 months -- soared 205%. This suggests that the strategic product enhancements Etsy has been making to increase the lifetime value of its regular customers is bearing fruit.

It's worth noting that in response to Etsy's undeniable success, e-commerce kingpin Amazon introduced its own marketplace for handmade items several years ago. Not many companies can say they went head-to-head with Amazon and continued to thrive -- but Etsy is clearly among that select group.

A man comparing an e-commerce page on a laptop, notebook, and smartphone app.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Fiverr: E-commerce for the gig economy

Another potential outlier in the broad definition of e-commerce is Fiverr International (FVRR 0.12%). The company provides one of the world's largest platforms that connects freelancers with the businesses that need their help. The company is well-positioned to prosper in the evolving gig economy, providing all manner of digital services. These workers (freelancers) use the platform to list their services (called "gigs") in a growing list of more than 300 categories to businesses (buyers) looking to purchase those services.

Fiverr acts as the virtual go-between and bank, securing the funds to ensure both parties are satisfied at the end of the job. For brokering the transaction and managing the payment, Fiverr charges a 20% flat fee.

The company kicked off 2021 in fine fashion, delivering the best first quarter in Fiverr's history, with revenue growth accelerating to 100% year over year. This was fueled by the company's take rate, which ticked higher to 27.2%, an increase of 10 basis points. It also fueled an improved bottom line, as Fiverr pared its adjusted net loss by 88%. 

Impressive customer metrics were another contributing factor, as active buyers climbed 56% year over year. Not only is the company attracting new business, but existing customers keep coming back to the well, as spending per buyer increased 22% year over year.

Fiverr has previously noted the growing importance of each year's cohort of buyers, as many become repeat users. While there was some question about the quality of the most recent customers, the company has put those fears to rest, reporting that the activity of last year's cohort has been remarkably consistent with existing users. 

Fiverr is currently trading at a 37% discount to recent highs, giving investors the opportunity to get shares at a considerable discount.

FVRR Chart

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Every rose has its thorns

Each of these companies was a standout performer over the past year, and the best may be yet to come. A consequence of the soaring stock prices has been the associated pricey valuation, as Fiverr, Pinterest, and Etsy are selling at 24, 16, and 9 times forward sales, respectively -- when a good price-to-sales ratio is considered to be between one and two.

Thus far, however, investors have been willing to pay up for the impressive top-line growth and potential for outsized profits. Additionally, given the secular tailwinds driving e-commerce and the triple-digit percentage stock price gains over the past year, these thriving businesses don't seem that expensive after all.