Instagram’s New Shopping Feature Works Like a Digital Mall


The mall of the future is not a sprawling metropolis of stores, punctuated by the occasional soft pretzel stand and megaplex movie theater, but a platform on your phone. Imagine: a million stores made just for you, selling only the things you’re likely to buy, based on what you’ve bought in the past or how you’ve behaved online. Plenty of platforms are trying to steer shopping in this direction. Amazon anticipates when you’ll need to restock on paper towels. Pinterest predicts what you’ll want for your home remodel. Now Instagram is taking a big step toward surfacing the stuff you might buy, and making it easier for you to buy it.

For brands, it’s like a opening a storefront in a shopping center where the customers who are most likely to buy from them are automatically directed to their front door.

Starting today, Instagram will enable in-app checkout for its shoppable posts. By streamlining the process of purchasing things within its mobile app, Instagram hopes to become your own personalized digital mall.

One year ago, Instagram made it possible to “shop” posts in your feed. If you follow a brand like Zara, you might see a post showcasing a new shirt—part branded content, part advertisement—with a tag that shows the item name and pricing. Instagram also introduced a dedicated space for shopping through Explore. Enter the Explore tab and you’ll find, in addition to personalized interests like food or travel, a section for shopping. It’s filled with shoppable posts from brands or accounts you follow, plus ones Instagram thinks you’ll like based on your browsing behavior. Tap on a post and you’ll find more details about the product for sale—a sectional couch, or a pair of sunglasses—with pricing and a shopping link.

Instagram says that over 130 million people tap on these tags each month, browsing through posts from brands big and small. But the actual purchasing process can be annoying. Want to buy that shirt from Zara? A link navigates you to the mobile site, which opens up inside of the Instagram platform, and then brings you through a cumbersome checkout process. It’s easy to lose your place, and awkward to enter credit card information on a mobile platform layered on top of another mobile platform. “Instead of having to go through this clunky mobile web flow and checking out, you can now check out directly on Instagram,” says Ashley Yuki, the product management lead on the new feature.


The in-app checkout feature will roll out with a set of 20 initial retail partners, including Nike, Burberry, Uniqlo, and a handful of internet-native brands, like Kylie Cosmetics, Outdoor Voices, and Warby Parker. Yuki says the platform plans to include more retailers soon. These vendors will pay a cut of their sales to Instagram, though the service declined to share what that fee would be.

Instagram counts more than 1 billion users on its platform every month—and it has a detailed dossier on each of them. The Facebook-owned company makes note of which brands the users follow, what categories they’re interested in, and which targeted advertisements their eyeballs linger on. For brands, it’s like a opening a storefront in a shopping center where the customers who are most likely to buy from them are automatically directed to their front door.

The new feature also brings Instagram one step closer to its vision of becoming the only shopping mall you’ll need. Yuki says Instagrammers are increasingly turning to the platform to discover products they love, in addition to connecting with friends and family. “We’re excited to take it one step further and say, what would happen for our community who comes to Instagram and just wants to be shopping?” she adds. “It’s personalized for you, based on brands you follow and that you might never have discovered in another way, and you can shop them all in one place. That’s pretty interesting for us at Instagram.”

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