Instagram Shopping: A failure we saw coming?

Instagram is reportedly removing its shopping page amid a move to drive more direct ad revenue.
7 September 2022

Instagram Shopping: A failure we saw coming? (Photo by David Dee Delgado / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

  • Instagram is rolling back several of its shopping features as it plans to refocus its e-commerce efforts towards advertising.
  • The platform plans to pivot toward a less personalized version of the shopping page that it’s calling “Tab Lite”, which will be piloted this week onwards.

In the middle of the pandemic in 2020, Meta-owned Instagram launched ‘Shops’ — an in-app shopping feature that enticed consumers to shop as they scrolled. When the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced the feature, he said “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app.” Instead, Instagram at that point in time was leaning into four key areas: creators, video, messaging and shopping.

Two years since its foray into the social commerce segment, Instagram is changing its direction.

Firstly, as to why shopping made the list, Mosseri in 2020 said the pandemic had “accelerated the shift of commerce from offline to online by a number of years, and we’re trying to lean into that trend.” Unfortunately, despite a pandemic-led jump in overall e-commerce activity, so-called social commerce hasn’t really caught fire outside of China — and that has been apparent with the likes of Instagram and TikTok.

Therefore, according to a report by The Information, an internal memo among Instagram staffers indicated that the social media platform is scaling back its in-stream shopping program, and potentially abandoning the concept entirely. For context, shopping in Instagram means people can visit a shop from a business’ Instagram profile, through their feed and through Stories. 

Once they’re at the shop, people can browse products, explore collections and purchase products – seamlessly through their in-app browser or without leaving the app from shops with checkout. “Instagram is planning to drastically scale back its shopping features, the company told Instagram staffers on Tuesday, as it shifts the focus of its e-commerce efforts to those that directly drive advertising,” The Information says.

The retreat shows how Meta Platforms is moving away from some long-term projects as it focuses on building its short-form video business. Earlier this summer, the tech giant informed staffers that it was putting a slew of commerce features on the back burner, according to The Information. Those include Meta’s investment in ‘creator commerce’ within Instagram shopping, its ‘Friends & Family Shopping’ section, community-driven shopping projects, and visual search. 

There was a point, a couple of years ago, when in-stream commerce was a key focus for Meta’s ongoing product development and revenue tools. The hearsay this week evidently shows that the demand just isn’t there – and perhaps not all Chinese market trends can be re-created  in every region. In fact, Meta should know better considering that it tried the same trick with messaging, and converting Messenger into an all-encompassing platform back in 2016.

However, a spokesperson for Meta told Insider via email that, “Commerce remains important for Instagram as we continue to make it easier for people to discover and shop products throughout the app from feed, stories, reels, and innovations like live shopping and drops.” 

What’s next for Instagram Shopping?

With the changes, the current Instagram ‘Shop’ tab will eventually disappear from the app by March 2023, and the company will shift to a ‘simpler and less personalized version’ of its in-stream product display. Additionally, today, the company is expected to start rolling out a public test of its app that will introduce users to the ‘Tab Lite’ version of its shopping page, The Information noted from Tuesday’s memo.