Money Matters - Simplified

Our Top 5 Tech Stocks for 2011: LivePerson

 This article is part of Our Top 5 Tech Stocks for 2011 series.

No online retailer likes abandoned shopping carts. No wireless carrier wants to see a customer with an account query grow frustrated while hanging on an email response or punching away at a touch-tone menu to nab a real person at the other end of the line.

 

 LivePerson (Nasdaq: LPSN) is all over this, thankfully, providing some of the country's largest companies with web-based live chat support.

LivePerson is a winner, with thousands of clients -- including HPVerizon Wireless, andCisco -- leaning on its enterprise platform to deliver better customer experiences. The end result is a well-connected tech stock that has come through with consistent profitability and healthy top-line growth.

Its latest quarter was another beauty. Revenue climbed 27% to $28.2 million, and adjusted earnings climbed 15% to land just ahead of Wall Street's expectations.

Looking ahead to 2011
LivePerson's outlook is strong heading into the new year. Analysts see revenue and earnings climbing 20% and 30%, respectively -- if it even gets that far.

Sector consolidation is the fashion that all of the tech giants are wearing these days, snapping up smaller speedsters that they can take to the next level at reasonable premiums. When Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) announced that it was paying up for Art Technology Group(Nasdaq: ARTG) -- a provider of e-commerce solutions that runs a much smaller LivePerson rival in InstantService -- shares of LivePerson and e-tail facilitator GSI Commerce (Nasdaq:GSIC) shot higher on the news.

I'm not suggesting that investors simply snap up LivePerson before Oracle or a services-hungry Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) does. I think LivePerson will crush the market on its own, too. It's a win-win situation for investors.

The model just flat out works
Why can't HP or Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) just task a few engineers to come up with an in-house live chat platform instead of having to turn to tiny LivePerson for assistance?

Well, it's not as easy as it sounds. LivePerson isn't just providing a bland interface that corporations can staff with knowledgeable hires to text back and forth with web users. LivePerson's seasoned platform can also stimulate sales or help frustrated clients by taking a proactive initiative. It's had over a decade of data-chomping experience. It knows when someone is getting frustrated with a particular website's customer service section. It can sense when a potential shopper is about to click to a rival e-merchant. It's at that moment when LivePerson can pop in for a hands-on assist.

ValueVision Media's (Nasdaq: VVTV) ShopNBC.com -- the licensed e-tail store of the popular television network -- issued a flattering report earlier this year. It found that website visitors who engage in a LivePerson chat convert at a much higher rate than those who don't. They also place much larger orders than those that do not. LivePerson's proactive engagement solution generated a whopping 299% return on investment at ShopNBC.

Wrapping it all up
Why LivePerson? Why 2011? Why can't I have a LivePerson chat window pop up at this point because I'm still not convinced?

Let me boil down my thesis to three major components.

  • The time is right. Companies continue to migrate online, and an improving economy will give businesses the confidence to ramp up their IT spending to make sure that their websites are doing the best job possible in converting leads and keeping customers. LivePerson's come a long way to get here. It went public just as the dot-com bubble was bursting, and it wasn't until two months ago that it broke into the double digits for the first time in its 10-year publicly traded history.
  • The company is right. Investors wondering why adjusted earnings didn't grow faster than revenue given LivePerson's scalable model in its latest quarter will be happy as analysts see margins expanding nicely in 2011.
  • There's always Mr. Right. Oracle and HP aren't the only tech behemoths on shopping sprees these days. Who wouldn't want a niche leader in an emerging industry, growing earnings at a 30% clip next year? LivePerson has been consistently profitable for six years, and now it's finally coming into its own. If a buyout at a healthy premium were to ever happen, now would seem to be the perfect time.

I did recommend LivePerson to Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers at $6.73 earlier this year. It has clearly done well on the growth newsletter's scorecard, but I think the best is still to come in 2011.

© 2010 UCLICK L.L.C.