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Instagram removes Shop tab. What does that mean for shopping?

The homepage navigation change is part of a shift in commerce priorities at Meta-owned Instagram.

Instagram removes Shop tab. What does that mean for shopping?

Instagram, without Shop tab. (Courtesy photo)

It’s official: Instagram is removing the Shop tab from the homescreen.

In an update flagged by TechCrunch on Monday, Instagram said it will change navigation in February “to make it easier for people to share and connect with their friends and interests.” This will place the “Compose” button for creating new content in the center, with the Reels button to the right.

With this, the main navigation bar will no longer contain a bag-shaped button that directs users to a page with a curated selection of customized storefronts from brands and creators.

“You will still be able to set up and run your shop on Instagram as we continue to invest in shopping experiences that provide the most value for people and businesses across feed, stories, reels, ads and more,” the company wrote.

Let’s be clear: At base, this is a feature change that rearranges buttons on an app homescreen. It's software, and the ability to change is what makes it so appealing. But there’s a lot more context here than changing layouts. It’s one of a host of changes Instagram is making to reposition commerce on the app.

It gets at the future of social commerce, in which purchases are completed within a social app, on one of the top apps where brands find new customers. News that Instagram was testing removal of the Shop page first broke in September from The Information. As we wrote then:

Yet as online shopping and social networks evolve, a key question remains: Will social media remain primarily a place where consumers find new products through advertising and placements, or will it continue to evolve into the singular place where people shop and buy goods, as well?

That question gained new relevance this week as details emerged on how Instagram is making big changes to its shopping strategy. According to The Information, Instagram plans to remove its existing Shop page due to what an internal memo called “shifts in company priorities.” It will also eventually remove the homepage button that directs users to the Shop page. These moves are part of a wider social commerce pullback. Per The Information, other features being shelved include “creator commerce” within Instagram shopping, a “Friends & Family Shopping” section, community-driven shopping projects, and visual search. It also shut down an affiliate commerce program that enabled creators to earn commissions from product tags in favor of a Creator Marketplace that connects brands and creators.

The underlying question then was whether Instagram would continue to build out to enable storefronts and transactions to stand on their own within Instagram, and do so as a complete commerce experience.

The changes announced on Monday seem to split the difference: Brands can still set up a Shop page, but there won’t be a prominent navigation to reach them via the homescreen.

Where shopping sits within Instagram’s overall priorities still isn’t clear.

On one reading, shopping could become more embedded into the overall app experience. That’s what Google is aiming for with a series of recent changes, including the ability to start a product search by typing “shop” and tools that make shopping more visual. Besides, brands and creators can still drive their own traffic to their shops from their own posts and profiles on Instagram or other platforms.

On the other hand, removing the Shop tab from the homepage could make shopping more difficult to find in the app. When it’s not available right when you log on, how will users discover a new brand that they didn’t already know about? Plus, Instagram shelved a number of other commerce programs last year, including a creator commerce and a host of other shopping initiatives. Facebook ended its live shopping feature, as well. This seems to be part of that era ending at Meta.

At the very least, there seems to be a symbolic shift happening. Shop used to be near the center of the homescreen navigation bar – front and center. Now it’s not there at all.

To be sure, there is logic here, as well. It makes sense that Instagram would want to position the button that helps users post pictures and short video on Instagram in a more prominent spot.

Whatever the case, don’t expect brands – or even commerce – to disappear from Instagram altogether. The Information had reported that the Instagram commerce organization was being reorganized with a “new northstar” around tying it to ad revenue. New features, then, will likely be on that path.

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