Top Analyst Highlights from E-Commerce Holiday Trends Update Conference Call: Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Facebook Inc (FB), eBay Inc (EBAY), and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL)


On the heels of hosting an investor call last week with two expert online marketplace sellers, Peter Cobb of eBags and Jordan Insley of Quick Ship Brands, top analyst Colin Sebastian at Baird is chiming in with bullish calls on three internet giants in his coverage universe: Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL).

Sebastian gleaned new insights into holiday e-commerce trends from the conference call, recognizing these trends point to post-election weakness recovery thanks to robust Cyber-Five growth coupled with mobile traffic. For context, the “Cyber Five” period is the time frame following Thanksgiving through December to-date. Commentary shines the most for Amazon and Facebook, and is “mildly positive” for eBay and Alphabet.

Colin Sebastian has a very good TipRanks score with a 68% success rate and he stands at #37 out of 4,283 analysts. Sebastian garners 14.5% in his annual returns. When recommending AMZN, Sebastian earns 32.8% in average profits on the stock. When suggesting FB, Sebastian realizes 18.4%. When rating EBAY, Sebastian yields 11.6%. When advising GOOGL, Sebastian gains 15.3%.

Let’s dive in:

Amazon’s Competitive Edge Likely to Rise

Amazon appears to be in a “strong” position based upon Sebastian’s conversation with Cobb of eBags. Leading him to reiterate an Outperform rating on shares of AMZN with an $850 price target, which represents a just under 10% increase from current levels.

In fact, the analyst notes that from Cobb’s viewpoint, Amazon rivals its competitor eBay in the spectrum of mobile experience, asserting, “In particular, Mr. Cobb believes that eBay’s mobile experience lags Amazon, as it requires customers to manually sort through a larger number of search results.”

However, Sebastian bears in mind, “As Amazon continues to build out private brands across multiple categories, merchants and brands may become increasingly cautious in selling on the platform. While Amazon continues to generate significant order volumes, we note that sellers may, over time, seek out alternative marketplaces and/or develop and nurture their own online retail sites and apps.”

“In the event of another recession, Amazon will likely see its growth reduced again; however, longer term downturns typically increase Amazon’s competitiveness as weaker competitors may be forced out of business or have less capital flexibility to make long-term investments,” the analyst surmises.

TipRanks analytics exhibit AMZN as a Strong Buy. Out of 34 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 32 are bullish on Amazon while 2 remain sidelined. With a return potential of nearly 23%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $950.19.

Facebook is a King of Advertising Spend- Thanks to Mobile and Video

Facebook and Alphabet were among two of the shining lights of the conference call, thanks to domination of ad spend on back of driving forces in mobile and video. Accordingly, the analyst reiterates an Outperform rating on FB without listing a price target.

Sebastian accentuates, “Mobile traffic continues to improve and drive an increasing share of visits and engagement, as expected, with merchants allocating larger portions of their advertising budgets to mobile and mobile video despite the lower conversion rates vs. desktop ads. Both executives mentioned video as an increasingly important format to engage with consumers.”

Furthermore, the analyst opines, “With respect to customer acquisition, Google and Facebook are still dominating advertising spend, with mobile video on Facebook emerging this holiday as a new driver of engagement and sales. Separately, eBay CEO Devin Wenig tweeted mobile GMB (gross merchandise bought) share vs. desktop reached 38% on Thanksgiving (up from 35% in 2015), suggesting the growth in mobile traffic has more than offset the related decrease in average order value.”

However, with reigning clout also comes the careful watch of government authorities. “Facebook has achieved overwhelming dominance in the bulk of its key markets and consequently is likely to face increased scrutiny from the DOJ, the EU, and other government watchdogs,” Sebastian concludes, positive on the social media giant, but aware of impending risks.

TipRanks analytics indicate FB as a Strong Buy. Based on 38 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 35 rate a Buy on FB while 3 maintain a Hold. The 12-month average price target stands at $157.71, marking a 32% upside from where the stock is currently trading.

eBay’s Potential Lies in Forthcoming Platform Updates

Whereas Cobbs of eBags sees weakness in eBay, Insley of Quick Ship Brands sees the company as “healthy and improving, and Sebastian tends to agree. The analyst reiterates an Outperform rating on shares of EBAY with a $35 price target, which represents a close to 20% increase from current levels.

Sebastian underscores a general sense of positivity surrounding the platform, as he believes, “Overall, commentary around the planned updates to eBay’s platform seemed optimistic, as merchants and brands anticipate better organic search visibility as a result of improved product/category indexing. In particular, Mr. Cobb believes that eBay’s mobile experience lags Amazon, as it requires customers to manually sort through a larger number of search results. As eBay structured data initiatives progress through 2017, he expects to see better product visibility from both an SEO and on-site search standpoint, giving customers more relevant results and alleviating some of the biggest challenges for marketplace sellers.

“eBay has previously disclosed that the marketplace hosts over a billion live product listings, and many sellers find it difficult to stand out, particularly in crowded product categories. By introducing improved sorting and filtering tools, eBay will seek to streamline the shopping experience for customers while giving sellers greater product exposure,” the analyst contends, anticipating that enhanced customer mobile experience will bode well for the e-commerce and online auction giant.

TipRanks analytics demonstrate EBAY as a Buy. Out of 23 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 9 are bullish on eBay stock, 11 remain sidelined, and 3 are bearish on the stock. With a return potential of nearly 14%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $33.21.

Alphabet’s Big Threat: Facebook

Google, much like Facebook, has made great strides in mobile and video, with robust growth in Search, a key to winning in both mobile advertising as well as customer acquisition, which are on a surge in expectation of rising volumes.

Therefore, the analyst picks Alphabet as his fourth bullish call, reiterating an Outperform rating on GOOGL without listing a price target.

However, like Facebook, Sebastian is wary that success will bear anti-trust and regulatory-related risks, warning, “As Google’s dominance has grown in Search, the DOJ has increased scrutiny of the company’s activities. This may hamper Google’s competitiveness in the future.”

Moreover, Facebook remains a viable threat to Alphabet, as Sebastian predicts “Facebook may also, over time, compete in search, by using its social network data to augment a search index compiled of public web data.” Additionally, “It is possible that Facebook will launch a third-party Display Network to compete with Google’s network, and thereby take market share,” the analyst adds.

Overall, though Sebastian nonetheless maintains buying opportunity is still compelling for GOOGL, he remains more confident on Facebook in the long-term.

TipRanks analytics show GOOGL as a Strong Buy. Based on 28 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 26 rate a Buy on GOOGL, 1 maintains a Hold, while 1 issues a Sell. The 12-month average price target stands at $968.33, marking a 19% upside from where the stock is currently trading.