In January 2018, I predicted that Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) business would continue to grow at a rapid pace, pushing Amazon stock all the way to $10,000.
Of course, I wasn’t suggesting it would happen immediately. Rather, it might take as long as 7.5 years to get there, which would still result in an annualized return of 33% for Jeff Bezos and company.
Since then, the markets have experienced two major corrections.
The first saw the S&P 500 go into full-on bear mode, falling 14% in the final quarter of 2018, making it the worst quarter for the index since 2008. In the process, it put the year-to-date return in negative territory. Talk about a reversal of fortune.
How did AMZN stock fare in that year’s fourth quarter? It lost 25% to close well down from its 52-week high of $2,050.50.
The second major correction came in March of this year when the novel coronavirus hit the index hard, resulting in a 12.5% decline on the month. Thankfully, the markets bounced back in April, gaining 12.7%, the best one-month gain since 1987.
How did AMZN stock fare in March and April? It gained slightly more than 31%, falling to a low of $1,626.03 on March 16 before recovering nicely.
Since my January 2018 prediction, Amazon stock is up 101% and on the way to $3,000.
Amazon stock remains on the path to $10,000. To get there by my original timeline, the company only needs a couple of its big initiatives to be successful.
Here are two that I’m watching:
Amazon’s Push Into Advertising
Facebook and Google account for 59% of the U.S. online advertising market, which is estimated to be close to $130 billion annually. Because of this, the duopoly continues to face scrutiny from U.S. antitrust regulators. They want to know whether Google’s algorithm favors its own ad exchange at the expense of third-party ad suppliers.
Any intervention is music to Amazon’s ears. Way down in third place with 8.8% of U.S. online ad spending, for once, Bezos gets to play the underdog. However, he won’t be in this position for too much longer. Forecasts suggest that Amazon’s ad revenues could hit $38 billion annually by 2023.
While Amazon has little chance of catching the duopoly, it stands a good chance of becoming a strong third wheel. In 2019, Amazon’s ad business grew by 39% to $14.1 billion. In the first quarter, Amazon’s ad revenues grew by 44% to $3.9 billion. The company believes artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping deliver more relevant ads.
So while Facebook and Google are heavily dependent on advertising, Amazon has businesses like Amazon Web Services (AWS) — $9.2 billion in operating income in 2019 — to lean on while building out its advertising business.
Due to Covid-19, ad revenues across the board will take a hit. That makes the company’s AWS business that much more important in these troubling times.
Jeff Bezos has become a master allocator of capital, stoking the fires that need stoking, and in the process, making Amazon extremely nimble and able to act on its best ideas.
The cashier-less convenience store concept Amazon began rolling out in 2018 is going to revolutionize the industry. Amazon, which expects to open 3,000 stores by the end of 2021, could generate as much as $4.5 billion in annual sales from these stores by the end of 2022. According to RBC Capital Markets, the average Amazon Go store does $1.5 million in annual sales.
Not bad for a store concept that doesn’t need any front-of-store personnel.
“Amazon Go stores could be a game changer for physical retail experience. Its in-store technology enables shoppers to have a very efficient and pleasant shopping experience,” RBC analyst Mark Mahaney wrote in a 2019 note to clients. “While not a significant financial contributor yet, we believe the overall opportunity is huge.”
In February of this year, Amazon took its Go platform to the next level by opening a full-sized space in Seattle. It’s much larger than its other convenience stores, which vary between 450 and 2,700 square feet.
“What Amazon Go did for central business districts — like locating it very close to where people work so you can get breakfast, lunch, snacks — Amazon Go Grocery does the same thing, but closer to home,” Dilip Kumar, vice president of Physical Retail & Technology for Amazon, said in February during its launch. “It’s a new format, it’s not just a bigger Amazon Go. It’s a much more expanded selection that caters to what people are looking for shopping for groceries.”
The convenience store business might not be as sexy as Whole Foods. But, it’s got the potential to engage Amazon Prime customers wherever they live.
The stores themselves might generate $4 billion in sales, but it’s the free advertising Amazon gets to attract more Prime members that’s the real key to Amazon Go’s ultimate success.
Everything Amazon does revolves around Prime.
The Bottom Line on Amazon Stock
While I have my reservations about the way the company treats its employees, nothing Amazon does surprises me anymore.
It’s got a great business model. Plus, it’s using technology to innovate old-school industries like grocery, convenience stores, healthcare — the list goes on. I could actually see Amazon stock hit $10,000 by January 2023, the earliest date in my two-year timeline mentioned at the beginning.
However, it’s got to nail at least one of these initiatives to have a chance.
Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.