Warren Buffett often remarks that his favorite holding period is forever. There's sound logic behind that tenet, as buying and holding stocks for a really long time can compound an investor's individual wealth handsomely.
But not all stocks are worth holding forever, especially in an industry like technology, where trends can change quickly. However, there are a few tech stocks that are setting themselves up to stay on top for a really long time. Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) are two tech stocks that could dominate their industries for years to come and deliver consistent upside.
Let's see why.
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Cybersecurity is here to stay
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but it is also making them riskier. Identity theft, viruses, and malware are just a few examples of the cyber threats we face today. As a result, individuals, corporations, and governments have ramped up their spending to bolster their defenses against such threats.
This has led to a massive spike in cybersecurity spending in recent years. According to various estimates, cybersecurity spending will hit $170 billion by 2020, compared to $75 billion in 2015. That number will keep rising in the future -- the scope of cyber threats will widen thanks to upcoming technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous cars, and artificial intelligence (AI), among others.
As a result, cybersecurity technology must keep pace with the evolving threats; otherwise cyber attacks could end up costing $90 trillion by 2030, according to a study by the Atlantic Council and the Zurich Insurance Group.
This is why Palo Alto Networks is one of the best bets investors can make today to take advantage of the secular growth of the cybersecurity market. The cybersecurity specialist has been delivering terrific growth quarter after quarter on the back of a rapidly growing customer base.
More importantly, Palo Alto should be able to sustain this momentum in the future because it is busy expanding its wings into different cybersecurity niches, such as cloud security and AI-driven network protection. The company's recent acquisition of Demisto, for instance -- for which it spent $560 million -- will allow Palo Alto to ride the growth of AI in cybersecurity. It is estimated that AI deployment in cybersecurity is growing in excess of 30% a year.
The good part is that the company's acquisition-driven expansion strategy has led to impressive market share growth over the years. The company held just over 9% of the cybersecurity market last year, compared to just 1.9% in 2013.
Palo Alto is capable of increasing its market share further going forward, as its acquisitions give it a greater opportunity to cross-sell its products to both existing and new clients. In this way, Palo Alto is creating an end-to-end platform that will play a handy role in augmenting its cybersecurity empire.
Customer relationship management isn't going out of fashion
In the words of Salesforce, the leading global provider of customer relationship management (CRM) software, the goal of CRM is to improve business relationships. CRM is critical for the growth of any business, as it helps organizations manage relationships with both potential and existing customers by providing key insights that will help improve customer interactions.
Not surprisingly, CRM is the world's biggest software market, with annual revenue of nearly $40 billion in 2017 according to Gartner. It is also the world's fastest-growing software market, clocking an annual growth rate of 16%, also according to Gartner estimates. The good part is that CRM demand isn't going to slow down anytime soon, as more companies are expected to use technologies such as cloud computing and AI to enhance their customer experiences.
AI, for instance, is expected to be a big growth driver for the CRM space. According to one estimate, the global AI-driven CRM market will witness rapid annual growth of over 43% through 2023 and hit a size of nearly $73 billion. AI can single-handedly boost the CRM market in the future, and Salesforce.com is one of the best ways you can take advantage of it thanks to its solid position in this space.
At the end of 2017 Salesforce commanded a fourth of the global CRM market, generating just over $10.5 billion for its most recent fiscal year, which ended on Jan. 31, 2018. In 2018 the company didn't show any signs of slowing down, as its top line shot up close to 27%. What's more, Salesforce also raised its guidance for the current fiscal year, expecting revenue growth in the range of 20%-21%, which puts its full-year revenue at $16 billion.
Salesforce believes that it can sustain its double-digit top-line growth for years to come, as it is targeting $60 billion in annual revenue by 2034. So the company believes it can nearly quadruple its revenue in the next 15 years, and it's taking steps to stay ahead of the game to ensure that. For instance, it is busy adding more AI capabilities to its service cloud platform: Salesforce.com customers will now be able to take advantage of functions such as article recommendation, response recommendation, and routing to the most appropriate customer service representative with the help of machine learning.
All of these features will make it easier for customer agents to elevate the customer service experience. Moreover, Salesforce has hinted that more AI-enabled enhancements are on the way, making it evident that the company has a laser-like focus on making the most of emerging tech trends in the CRM space.
The Foolish bottom line
Browsing through a website on your smartphone or talking to a customer service agent might seem like mundane tasks these days, but companies like Palo Alto Networks and Salesforce are busy making those experiences safer and easier. The two companies are well placed in their respective verticals, they have taken concrete steps to secure their long-term growth, and they operate in fast-growing markets.
For those reasons, investors can consider holding them for a really, really long time.
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