Instagram announced early this month that it will be ditching the Shop tab in February, its parent company Meta said, citing efforts to optimize navigation and make it easier for people to share and connect with their friends and interests.
The navigation bar at the bottom of the app will now have the shortcut for creating content in the center and its Reels function will move to the right.
Meta specified that users will still be able to set up and run a shop on Instagram, ensuring that the company continues to invest in the shopping experience.
The change, however, posed questions about the reasons behind the decision to remove the Shop tab and its implications for business owners and marketing professionals.
How exactly will the new navigation look like?
After the changes, the 'Compose' button (the sign “+”) will return to the front and center of the navigation bar at the bottom of the app. It will replace the Reels button that will be moved over to the right of Compose, losing its prime spot.
Meta first relocated the Reels tab to the middle of the navigation bar in 2020, when it also replaced the Activity tab with the Shop tab instead.
Back then, the changes provoked a controversial reaction from users who criticized the app for pushing them to use new features at the expense of the overall experience.
Instagram bet on Reels to respond to growing competition with TikTok. Reels allows users to create short entertaining videos with music and special effects.
Instagram also mimicked TikTok by pushing video content and recommended posts more often. In response, Instagram influencers, however, called to “make Instagram Instagram again,” and to “stop trying to be TikTok”.
The upcoming redesign could be an attempt to bring Instagram closer to its original mission and address some of their users’ complaints.
How will this impact marketers?
Despite the removal of the Shop tab, marketing professionals expect shopping to remain an integral part of Instagram’s strategy.
Tom Jarvis, Founder, and CEO of Wilderness Agency told Econsultancy that Meta’s move is likely to be a reflection of the value of social commerce itself.
In his view, Instagram will still encourage users to make purchases but in a less direct way:
“I still fully expect them to develop new tools for users to buy products from the content they see as a core focus; it just doesn’t have to live on the nav but throughout the platform and the content within it,” - Tom Jarvis, Wilderness Agency
Sue Azari, Ecommerce Industry Lead, EMEA & LATAM suggests that the change could affect small brands and individual sellers that heavily rely on Instagram as opposed to bigger brands that redirect their followers in social media to the company’s own website and app.
Still, she expects that in the future Instagram will develop new stronger shopping features.
Trial and error
In 2022, Instagram launched and updated several features to support social commerce development. The platform expanded the ability to add product tags in feed posts to everyone in the U.S. and introduced an in-chat payment feature.
However, in September, Instagram employees were told that the platform would drastically scale back its shopping features to focus on e-commerce efforts to those that directly drive advertising, the Information reported.
Meta’s revenue declined in the third quarter by 4% compared to a year ago after the first-ever revenue decline in the second quarter. The company is expecting to post a revenue drop in the fourth quarter as well amid a broad slowdown in online ad spending.
In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing internal company documents, that Instagram users cumulatively are spending 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels, less than one-tenth of the 197.8 million hours TikTok users spend each day on the platform.
Ditching the Shop tab and bringing the Compose button back to the center of the navigation bar on Instagram, therefore, appears to be an attempt to bring the focus back to the core features of the platform.
Although it could limit visibility for small business owners in the short run, Instagram most likely will keep promoting online shopping, but in a more subtle way.