It's no secret on Wall Street that Shopify (SHOP 4.59%) is going through a painful growth hangover today. Sales trends decelerated through late 2022, just after management committed huge resources on the expectation that demand would remain elevated. The result has been a jarring shift to net losses -- and a slumping stock price.

But it pays for investors to look beyond just the big-picture narrative when considering a stock. With that goal in mind, let's look at a few underappreciated factors about this e-commerce platform.

1. Shopify is still a growth stock

A key factor pushing the stock lower has been Shopify's decelerating growth trends. Revenue gains in 2022 slowed to 23% compared to 57% in the prior year. Shopify is projecting a further slowdown in the first quarter as sales growth falls below the 20% level.

But this is still a growth stock. Shopify handled roughly 10% of all e-commerce in the U.S. last year even as it processed $28 billion in cross-border transactions. Management said in a conference call with investors that both metrics have a long growth runway ahead. Executives are also excited about the point-of-sale solutions that capitalize on the demand shift back toward in-person retailing.

2. The platform is changing

Shopify's platform is changing quickly thanks to acquisitions, along with a flood of new services launched over the past year or so. Some of these changes hurt results in the short term. Shopify's popular payments processing service carries lower margins, for example, and the $2 billion purchase of Deliverr pressured earnings in 2022.

On balance, though, the moves are making the platform more valuable to sellers even as they help increase average annual contract spending. "Millions of merchants around the world recognize and value the rich set of mission-critical solutions that we provide," CEO Harley Finkelstein told investors in mid-February.

3. Things will likely get worse before they get better

Shopify's sales and earnings trends haven't yet stabilized. Management is projecting another growth slowdown in Q1 as compared to the fourth quarter. Gross profit margin will remain pressured by things like the growth of the payments processing segment and the continued demand shift toward more consumer staples spending. Most investors are looking for more net losses over the next few quarters before a rebound becomes more obvious by late 2023.

Chart showing rise in Shopify's operating margin in 2020, followed by fall since mid-2021.

SHOP Operating Margin (TTM) data by YCharts

Management is aiming for a better balance between growth and earnings from here on out, ideally avoiding the type of overreach that torpedoed profits in 2022. Combined with accelerating sales trends, this shift could power a big rebound in the stock.

But risk-averse investors might want to watch the next few quarters of earnings updates before buying into that recovery thesis. Shopify's business has a lot of promise, and the platform is expanding its reach into more areas of e-commerce and retail.

On the other hand, it's not clear yet how these moves will make the business sustainably profitable, and an earnings rebound might be further complicated by a recession in key markets like the U.S. That's why this growth stock seems like a good one to keep on your watchlist for now.