Instagram App on Smartphone

Instagram Shifting Focus From Ecommerce to Short Video Reels

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Instagram is planning a user experience (UX) change sometime in February that will de-emphasize direct ecommerce on the app.

In a blog post, the Meta (Facebook) owned social media giant said it will change the app’s “navigation to make it easier for people to share and connect with their friends and interests.”

Instagram will adjust the navigation bar at the bottom of the app by removing the Shop tab, moving the Reels tab to the right, and adding a new shortcut for creating content in the center. (See the yellow boxes at the bottom of this mockup graphic)

The company added the Shop tab in 2020 to expand Instagram into having a marketplace-like social commerce shopping experience.   

Shopping through Instagram will still be possible, and users can continue to set up and run shops on the social media platform.

But this UX shift confirms reporting by The Information from last year that the company was drastically scaling back its shopping features to focus on driving advertising revenue from ecommerce on its platform.

An internal memo to staffers supposedly said that Instagram’s existing Shop page would eventually disappear, “given shifts in company priorities.”

These priorities appear to focus on boosting its short video platform Reels, which according to one study shows a 35% higher engagement rate than other content types.

Instagram to Become ‘Safer’ Alternative to TikTok?

Investing in Reels also helps Instagram to better compete with TikTok, which may encourage more advertising on its platform from businesses that are hesitant about using or advertising on TikTok.

TikTok’s rise in the U.S. has been controversial due to its Chinese-based ownership, and last month Washington lawmakers banned the app from all federal employee’s government-owned devices.

The app has now also been banned on government devices in more than 20 states, and the FBI warned in December about national security concerns claiming using TikTok may be a risk as it could collect user data for espionage purposes.

This negative attention may not phase younger users which are more prevalent on TikTok. But it may give a pause to online businesses considering the engagement-rich short video format to advertise their products or services on the Chinese-owned platform.

But while Meta and Instagram are not immune to controversy, as American-based companies, they enjoy a much higher level of trust.

And this is where Instagram’s focus on expanding its Reels short video content could bring more ecommerce advertisers to the platform.

The company so much admitted to this strategy in its announcement by saying, “we continue to invest in shopping experiences that provide the most value for people and businesses across feed, stories, reels, ads and more.”

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