Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Who will beat Amazon in the New-Abnormal

The COVID pandemic creates winners and losers. Will it simply accelerated some winners and some losers. As with any recession, it creates destructive innovation. In the sad carnage of the pandemic should lie silver linings. Telework is one. Winners are ZOOM, losers are office buildings. We're spending some time on this concept trying to estimate how permanent this shift to remote work will be and the massive savings (time, fuel, traffic, etc.)

But the focus of this discussion is on the Amazon effect. The death of the department stores in favor of buying online and having a shipper like Amazon deliver to your door. The Forbes article, Amazon has Finally Met its Match, by Stephen McBride got me started on this topic. Even though Amazon is BIG, you can't call it a monopoly because anyone can do it, kinda. They are simply big, the gorilla in the room.

How much has Amazon (AMZN) subscription services (prime, music, unlimited, etc.) increased related to the covid shutdown, how much has Amazon online purchasing increased, and what percentage of that online purchasing will dissipate once things get back to normal. Since we don't think that things will ever go back to "normal" we refer to the post-COVID world of the future as the "new-abnormal". Amazon has more than doubled in a year, reaching an all time high Sept 2, 2020 of $3,552 per share, a market capitalization of $1.8T. Wow!

Amazon became famous in the Intellectual Property (IP) world with the one-click patent.Look away from your screen for just a second, and you could find that you accidentally bought the item(s) you were scanning. That patent expired in September of 2017 allowing everyone to accelerate the purchase process and reduce shopping cart abandonment. Amazon still has had more that 13,000 patents granted (many have expired) and 1,259 applications (according to Justia). That's a pretty significant war chest.

Walmart (WMT) was not doing a good job to compete with Amazon, so they took an extreme measure in 20016 of buying an upstart name JET that was developed from the ground up to compete with Amazon. In 2016 Walmart bought JET for $3B (more discussion here). Walmart has the unique advantage that you can return online orders to the store. An advantage for Walmart is that people who return something at the store, will likely spend that money and more before leaving. Walmart has 1,237 patents and 820 patent applications as of August 2020.

In the August 2020 Forbes article, McBride thought that there would be several winners in the Amazon space. Etsy (ETSY) is a wonderful place for customized products, arts and crafts. Etsy and the artists who utilize their online marketplace excel in this area where Amazon cannot. 

The last one is Shopify (SHOP) a software platform for small and medium sized companies that integrates all of their business. Businesses that have online, storefront and mobile businesses find Shopify works well to bring all the pieces of the business together. Since most small(er) companies have very little online presence, Shopify helps them jump over the intermediate stages of going online and managing all the sales' processes. Shopify hit its all time high Sept 1, 2020 of $1,147, up from its low in November of $282. That's more than a 300% increase! Wow!

Shopify had zero (0) patents in 2015 and only maybe 32 today. Etsy has about 25 patents; many are interesting in the use of fuzzy logic and categorization of products. The stores that use Shopify and Etsy need to build their own intellectual property protection including trademarks, copyrights and patents.

Who do you think will be the winners in the new-abnormal world? Big boom for AMZN, of course. But what about these Amazon competitors in the move away from brick: SHOP and ETSY? And what about the ultimate click-n-mortar: WMT?

#Invest #Stocks #patents #ecommerce #NewAbnormal