Companies that can build disruptive businesses in established markets can become some of the best stocks to hold in the long term. Disrupters in online shopping, streaming, PCs, and mobile have stocks that are crushing the market on performance, and there are opportunities emerging in some new industries.
Today, I see a few market shake-ups taking hold. Podcasts are disrupting radio and television, long-tail retail is reshaping brick-and-mortar retail, and digital services are helping upend a long-established real estate brokerage market. That's why Spotify (NYSE:SPOT), Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), and Zillow (NASDAQ:Z) (NASDAQ:ZG) are disrupters and long-term growth stocks I absolutely love right now. Let's find out a bit more about these three disrupter stocks.
There's an incredible change happening in how we consume audio content. No longer are we tied to the limited offerings on terrestrial or satellite radio; podcasts allow anyone to have a voice and reach any listener at any time.
By enabling the podcast market, I see three disruptions taking place at once:
- Creation costs are dropping, and the hardware and technical expertise needed to produce and engineer a podcast are fading away.
- The discovery of podcasts can enable tightly focused niche content and serve audiences from anywhere in the world.
- Monetization is getting easier as subscriptions proliferate and targeted advertising platforms enable creators to make money more easily.
No company has done more to enable this reshaping than Spotify. The company has built or acquired creation tools that make it easier to make podcasts. And it has built the podcast platform and discovery tools, and it is expanding an advertising network that will make it easier to make money on podcasts.
I think the value in audio over the next decade will come from the companies that can connect creators big and small with listeners around the world. Spotify and Apple are the two biggest companies in podcasts today, and given Spotify's investment in creation tools, ads, and exclusive content, it has a chance to be a very disruptive company in audio.
The internet has enabled small podcast creators to reach customers in the audio market. It has also helped small (and larger) retailers get the attention of more customers. Customers are no longer limited to shopping in their local area; the internet helps them buy goods and services from anywhere around the world.
Shopify makes it easy for retailers big and small to create an online store. Whether it's a homegrown business selling a few niche items or a Fortune 500 company, Shopify has the infrastructure to run a modern online store.
This is reshuffling things for a couple of reasons. First, it's another model aimed at brick-and-mortar retailers, which can't even hope to carry the selection that's on Shopify's stores. Second, the platform gives another avenue to reach customers outside of Amazon's dominant e-commerce position. Third-party shops are a key source of product supply for Amazon, so Shopify is effectively disrupting Amazon's biggest suppliers.
As e-commerce companies get bigger, Shopify is shaking up the market by creating tools for small sellers, also known as the long tail of retail. And that could be disruptive to nearly every corner of retail.
The real estate brokerage market hasn't changed much in a century, and brokers have been able to maintain a lock on both information and their high fees on home sales. But Zillow is trying to reshape that.
It's important to start with where the real estate market is today. Brokers are able to charge fees exceeding 6% of the sale price of a home because the home buying/selling process is intimidating and they hold most of the industry's key information. Multiple listing services across the country aim to keep the buying and selling information about houses within their member agents. This helps make the brokerage business seem more exclusive than it would be if this information was freely available, and it keeps brokerage fees high.
Zillow is upending the industry in two ways. First, it's democratizing information. Anyone can go onto Zillow and get a Zestimate (a Zillow estimate) of the value of their home. They can also see what neighborhood homes are listed for and selling for. This information hasn't always been so readily available because brokers didn't want it out in the open.
Second, Zillow is now buying and selling houses through Zillow Offers. The company will buy a home at a pre-determined price, close on the day of your choice, and allow sellers to forgo the sale process, which (in a normal market) can take months. For this convenience (which also includes cleaning the home for sale and making repairs) the seller currently pays an average of 7.5% of the sale price of the home (generally referred to as "the spread").
Zillow's information business, which makes money by selling ad space to real estate agents, is a big business, but if Zillow Offers can become more efficient and reduce the spread it takes between buyers and sellers (currently 10.5% to 11.5%) to less than traditional agents fees (around 6%), this could be a very disruptive business in the $36 trillion U.S. housing market.
Disruptive businesses with a lot of potential
Spotify, Shopify, and Zillow all have a lot of potential to reshape audio entertainment, online shopping, and real estate, respectively. In the process, they could be great stocks for long-term investors willing to let them grow to their full potential.