[SMK] Social Media Knowledge


Instagram Dials Back Reels & Shopping Focus

Instagram is changing its navigation in what could be seen as a tacit admission that its emphasis on Reels and shopping hasn’t produced the desired effects.

From the start of this month, users will see the Create button back at its old position in the middle of the navigation bar. The Reels shortcut will move one space to the right, and the Shop tab will disappear entirely.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram

“We’re bringing Create down to the bottom, front and centre, and we’re removing the Shop tab.”

The changes are a reversal of the ones that placed the Reels button front-and-centre of the navigation menu and sent Create to the top-right-hand side of the app, which made it harder to find.

After criticism was directed at the app for moving away from its photo-sharing roots, it seems like Instagram is taking steps to revert to what made it so popular with people in the first place.

Megastars Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner led the charge and asked Mosseri to “make Instagram Instagram again”. The update to the navigation bar could be seen as a response to that.


“We are changing Instagram’s navigation to make it easier for people to share and connect with their friends and interests.”

Is Shopping the most significant casualty?

Brands that have invested in building a Shopping presence may feel concerned that a direct shortcut to that side of the platform has been removed. The change doesn’t mean Insta is less invested in the success of Shopping, but it will make it harder for users to stumble across that product.

“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.”

Nevertheless, removing the tab could be an admission that commerce isn’t going as well as Instagram would like. The worldwide Covid lockdowns accelerated the growth of online shopping, but as physical stores welcomed back shoppers, online shopping lost some of its market share.

Meta, the company that owns Instagram, recently laid off 11,000 workers – many of whom worked on its online shopping push due to its flawed growth calculations in this area.

While live shopping has also been cut from Facebook, it persists on Instagram, and it is an area that Insta is hopeful will provide to be a success. For brands that invested in this area, now might be the time to assess how your strategy might look should shopping completely fail.

Complete your sale – within the app

For those unfamiliar, a little background on Instagram Shopping wouldn’t hurt.

The Shopping suite of tools is actually quite broad, including Shops, Shopping tags, Shops in Explore, ads with product tags and product detail pages. For some, Instagram allowed shoppers to browse, select and pay for a product all within the app.

However, it is worth noting that Meta has a long track record of changing lanes on product roadmaps, so there’s nothing to say that it won’t backtrack on this in 2024.

Over the past 18 months, Meta has dialled back resources on a range of offerings as it haemorrhages cash due to Apple’s privacy measures biting, a tightening ad market and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse focus. As global economic growth figures hopefully rebound in 2024, Meta may refocus on commerce, especially if TikTok makes some headway in the interim.

The impact on Reels

The new location of the Reels tab indicates that Instagram may slow down its aggressive short-form video push in favour of photos and content uploaded by friends and family.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram

“We’re focused on three things: on inspiring creativity, on helping people discover what they love and parking connections between people over what they find.”

However, that quote from Adam Mosseri indicates the platform will still push content from accounts that people don’t follow to users. That means marketers can still focus on making Reels and optimising them for maximum discovery and engagement.

The fact of the matter is that Reels isn’t going away. Reels plays have more than doubled over 2021, and resharing of Reels doubled on Facebook and Instagram over the last six months. It remains a vital part of Meta’s strategy moving forward.

Marketers can take some comfort in that, even if users will have to work a little harder to find Reels – although not much more challenging since the Reels button is only being moved one space to the right.

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