Thanks in no small part to Amazon (AMZN -2.22%), online shopping was a secular growth trend of the 2010s. But the pandemic accelerated e-commerce technology adoption, and has made it a tool for smaller businesses too. Online marketplaces are proliferating here and abroad and expanding the reach of retailers and entrepreneurs, and making more products available for consumers.

However, 2021 wasn't the kindest year to many of these digital retail platforms. Lapping tough comparisons from economic lockdowns in 2020, many stocks have backtracked and are down big double-digit percentages. Business itself is just fine, though, which means some of these beaten-down companies could be ready to break out again in 2022. Farfetch (FTCH), Pinterest (PINS 0.64%), and MercadoLibre (MELI -2.80%) are three I have my eye on.

Someone holding a smartphone and a credit card.

Image source: Getty Images.

Farfetch: Luxury still going digital

Luxury online retail platform Farfetch is one of those 2020 top performers (with a 517% jump in share price) that hasn't been able to catch a break in 2021 (down 50% year to date as of this writing). But that doesn't mean the high-end goods industry is backtracking on the digital progress it made earlier in the pandemic.

On the contrary, Farfetch said the gross merchandise value (GMV, the value of goods sold via its marketplace and services) increased 27% year over year in third-quarter 2021 to $1.02 billion. While that isn't a sizzling rate of expansion, bear in mind Farfetch is lapping Q3 2020, in which GMV exploded 62% higher from pre-pandemic levels. Even though they now have other options besides online shopping this year, luxury companies and their patrons are still making ample use of Farfetch's offerings.

Sometimes expectations for a business simply get too lofty. I believe that's simply all that happened to Farfetch in 2021. Nevertheless, now double the size it was in 2019 and still projecting double-digit percentage growth for itself and the industry's continual migration to the internet overall, I like Farfetch stock more than ever. Trading for just four times expected revenue for 2022, this could be a great long-term e-commerce value in the making. 

Granted, Farfetch is only now beginning to reach profitability (as measured by adjusted EBITDA). I expect most investors won't be comfortable owning a high-risk but potentially high-reward stock like this, given that the company is funneling plenty of cash to promote expansion. In spite of the continued volatility that no doubt lies ahead, though, I plan to keep adding to my position in this small but emerging digital commerce ecosystem for the luxury industry

Pinterest: Struggling user metrics, positive financial performance

Visual search and social media outlet Pinterest has fallen out of favor with growth-minded investors as of late. On some counts this is totally fair. While the internet business has said it's still adding highly engaged mobile device users overseas, a return to out-of-home activities has been a serious headwind. Monthly average users were up just 1% year over year in Q3 2021 to 444 million, and the outlook for the fourth quarter implies close to flat year-over-year growth once again. 

Pinterest could definitely be in trouble if it doesn't figure out how to get more users engaged, but the company will have easier year-over-year comparisons to lap in 2022. Plus, user count isn't the only tailwind here. Businesses, marketers, and entrepreneurs have found the platform to be a highly profitable way to advertise to customers, reflected in another big increase in global average revenue per user (ARPU) in Q3 to $1.41 (up 37% from 2020). 

Even if Pinterest's user base stagnates from here on out, it has hundreds of millions of eyeballs scouring its pages each month -- a notable value proposition that an increasing number of businesses are obviously still recognizing. And Pinterest's work in machine learning software to increase ad relevance and site experience bodes well for its prospects as an e-commerce marketing hub.

It's not perfect, but Pinterest still expects to remain in revenue growth mode, and added sales are increasing the bottom line at an even faster rate (free cash flow went from close to nil to $633 million in the last year). Trading at just 39 times trailing-12-month free cash flow, this company has gone from a high-flying growth stock to something resembling a value after enduring a brutal 2021. Now looks like a pretty good time to "pin" a few more shares to your portfolio. 

MercadoLibre: The original emerging market e-commerce pioneer

Of the three e-commerce stocks on this list, Latin America's MercadoLibre is the most well-rounded. As a pioneering online marketplace for over two decades now, the company is already quite large, with an enterprise value of $63 billion as of this writing. 

But online sales are still a tiny minority of total retail in most of the countries of Latin America, and MercadoLibre is helping knock down barriers to entry via its digital payments and financial services segment. Its fintech division covers everything from the most basic of money transfer functions to asset management (Mercado Fondo). Other must-have features for a thriving digital economy are also growing fast, like Mercado Envios (delivery) and Mercado Credito (consumer and business credit). 

This top dog in technology in Central and South America has been beaten up this year, sporting a 27% share price decline with just a week and a half left until the new year. It has that 2021 market underperformance (relative to the S&P 500's 25% return) in common with both Farfetch and Pinterest. But while the latter two have reported sharply lower growth figures this past year, MercadoLibre is still booming, having reported a 67% increase in revenue in Q3 2021 that builds on its 149% increase in the same period in 2020. Talk about compounding growth

MercadoLibre is a fast-growing e-commerce giant that still has lofty aspirations for the emerging economies it operates in. And though Latin America has been plagued with an unfortunate combo of high unemployment and inflation in the wake of the pandemic, that's done little to slow MercadoLibre's advance. It's trading for a respective 9.7 and 6.5 times one year trailing and one year forward expected sales (the "cheapest" valuation for the stock since March 2020), and I plan on adding to my position early in 2022.