Investors in online retailer (NASDAQ:AMZN) have seen shares rise 476% in the past five years. While debate now rages over whether Amazon is too pricey -- giving it a lower-than-average chance of beating the market in the years ahead -- you don't have to buy shares of a proven winner to profit from it. Riding the coattails of an industry leader can sometimes prove even more lucrative for investors. But first, it helps to know where to look.

Finding the tail on this coat
Few would dispute Amazon's success in transforming a book-selling, cash-burning enterprise into a profitable, high-growth online retailer. The company has expanded its storefronts to drive 28% revenue growth over the past five fiscal years, dispelling the notion that it and other online portals such as eBay and Yahoo! could never derive massive profits without bricks-and-mortar establishments. eBay and Yahoo!, by the way, have grown revenues even faster -- 51% and 55%, respectively -- over the past five fiscal years.

So how would an investor spot compelling investment opportunities that could share in Amazon's success? If we can nail down some companies profiting from the burgeoning ecosystem that Amazon is driving, maybe we'll find a hidden treasure worthy of investment.

I think conventional wisdom about coattail companies is sometimes too limited. Typically, investors look only for direct suppliers or partners with a giant like Amazon. It's easy to look to other online retailers such as (NASDAQ:OSTK), or more specialized niche players such as high-end jewelry purveyor Blue Nile (NASDAQ:NILE), for their potential to mimic Amazon's rise. However, there are opportunities less directly linked to Amazon that investors may overlook.

Smaller companies have abundant ways of their own to drive great returns from a booming sector -- and not by just undercutting prices for the same products Amazon carries. For instance, a company may address an overlooked niche in a related market, or even offer a value-added service related to online sales.

Motley Fool CAPS can really help us here. The massive Foolish stock database has lots of tools for finding and researching stocks and the people who pick them.

Tagging along with CAPS
With CAPS, investors can look through Amazon's tag list for other companies sporting similar attributes such as "E-commerce," "Top Brands 2006," and "Disrupts Bricks-and-Mortar." In addition, the comments investors leave in CAPS regarding each company occasionally turn up firms whose similar qualities to Amazon could lead to inspiring returns.

These clues could lead investors to Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick Bankrate (NASDAQ:RATE). The company aggregates financial information on just about every type of consumer banking vehicle imaginable, from home loans to CDs to credit cards. Bankrate makes its money through advertising; it also gets payments for leads to lenders such as Mastercard (NYSE:MA) and American Express (NYSE:AXP). Bankrate even bumped up its "pay per click" rates 15%, thanks to a strong online advertising market. While many other companies have failed to reach critical mass selling products online, Bankrate's lean and mean approach of simply aggregating financial data has been paying off for shareholders.

Online gaming firm and Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation GigaMedia (NASDAQ:GIGM) represents another tempting possibility. The Taiwan-based company is aggressively pursuing the online gaming and gambling market in Europe and Asia with casino games such as poker and mahjong. In many ways, GigaMedia is in the same place Amazon was 10 years ago -- an infant market fraught with risks. It faces many unknowns: uncertain consumer adoption, a dubiously defensible position, and overall market opportunity. Add to that the risks of regulation surrounding online gambling in many regions of the world, and you've got one interesting -- and risky -- investment. But hey, that's what gambling is all about, right?

Of course, plenty of coattail investments have ultimately flopped for investors. For this reason, CAPS is best used as a research tool, not a device to pick stocks for you. Investors should always perform their own due diligence on companies. Still, for the price -- absolutely free -- you can't beat CAPS' information and resources.

Do you know of another stock riding Amazon's current? Give your own opinion in Motley Fool CAPS.

GigaMedia is one of more than a dozen international picks from the Motley Fool Global Gains newsletter service. To see what other global gems lead analyst Bill Mann and his team have dug up, check out a 30-day free trial today.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has never worn a coat with tails, and he prefers the waiter style. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo! are Stock Advisor recommendations.  MasterCard is an Inside Value recommendation. Blue Nile and Bankrate are Rule Breakers picks. Blue Nile is also a Hidden Gems pick. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. The Fool's disclosure policy is imitated, but never duplicated.