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The Top 11 Fastest-Growing Industries


Most businesses and services are still slowly recovering from the trauma of the Great Recession. These 11 categories, however, are already in blue-sky territory.

E-Cards and Online Photo Printing

The paper greeting card is getting picked over at the drugstore. Ironically, people are more and more turning to digital cards and online purchases to celebrate their Hallmark holidays. The proliferation of the Internet and social media -- and Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) gift program ramp-up -- combined with convenience and affordability factors have swelled industry revenue by 36% since 2008. The next five years promise another 40% bump.

The online photo industry has likewise benefited from increased Internet access as well as ongoing advances in printing technology and will pick up nearly 28% more business annually until 2018.

Online Payment Processing

An obvious beneficiary of the e-commerce boom are developers of online payment processing software that make electronic financial transactions possible. No single firm has emerged as a heavy hitter in this fragmented market, though the largest player, PayPal (NASDAQ:EBAY), claimed 24.2% of the industry's total bottom line in 2012. This makes an interesting open season of the next five years of market growth; in that time, the industry is expected to see a 17.2% increase in revenue per year.

Online Fashion Sample Sales

Capitalizing on the sinking ship that was the US economy in the mid-2000s, apparel flash sale sites began cropping up on the Web as the discount shopper's online sanctum. But even as the recession abated, Americans have continued to keep up the bargain hunt -- to the tune of $2.5 billion in 2013 -- on sites like HauteLook (NYSE:JWN) and Gilt. In fact, our savvier shopping habits turned Ideeli into the country's fastest growing company in 2011.

And there's 55.6% more annual growth to be had within the industry until 2018.

Social Networking Sites

Investors who blazed the trail in the social media sector by snapping up shares of Facebook on the first day of trading are now being rewarded for their pioneer spirit. The long wait to see the stock rise above $45 is over.

In the black and on the climb, Facebook seems to have sorted out its once-iffy mobile strategy. The company's second-quarter earnings report -- touted by experts as a huge turning point -- showed 800 million users accessing the social network on a smartphone or tablet, and mobile ad sales accounting for 41% of total ad revenue.

Meanwhile, Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) IPO created 1,600 new millionaires -- though, mostly, of its workforce.

Over the past decade, social networking sites recorded 74.4% annualized growth with 2103's revenue nearing $6.6 billion. The next five years will find the industry gaining another 25% through 2018 as it continues to test and prove monetization schemes. And though Facebook and Twitter currently dominate the social networking space, the wealth is spreading to a number of publicly traded companies like LinkedIn, Mediabistro (NASDAQ:MBIS), Renren Inc. (NYSE:RENN), Sina (NASDAQ:SINA), MeetMe (NYSEMKT:MEET), and Vringo (NASDAQ:VRNG).
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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