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Instagram, the only shopping mall you need

How Instagram has become a sophisticated shopping platform


Every other Wednesday, h/commerce provides in-depth analysis of the most impactful trends reshaping retail.


Over years, Instagram has become a key marketing channel and played a predominant role in changing consumers’ behaviors. Instagram influenced how we shop, travel, eat and consume content. But this ultimate inspirational destination has passed through a major business model change. Up until recent years, the use of Instagram was limited mostly to lurk about lifestyle, sharing photos with friends and absorbing stories.

In 2020 tough, with the pandemic context amplifying the online commerce stats, Instagram has accelerated its foray into the e-commerce field and continued the expansion of its domain, from millennial-friendly photo-sharing app to a one-stop marketplace facilitating big sales for young, small, old, big or digitally native brands. In 2021, Instagram will most likely complete its transformation and become a whole new kind of a shopping mall. A digital replacement of a space where people used to hang out, to shop, be entertained, spend time with friends and look at the storefronts. In 10 years, Instagram has made many steps to catch up with the old-school shopping malls’ sore purpose of creating rituals of consumption.

Instagram has become the new temple of shopping and consumption

If the traditional shopping malls were sometimes called the temples of consumption, Instagram has become its modern, digital equivalent. In 2020, we have seen Instagram closing the discovery journey loop and integrating shopping across many features, allowing to browse and shop seamlessly within one social media experience.

With the introduction of Instagram Shops in May, the app created a streamlined way to discover shoppable products exploiting Instagram’s capabilities of high-end targeting and personalized feed. The new shopping tab allows users to “Browse Shops, “See Editors Picks”, “Explore Guides” or “Shop Collections” – making finding inspiration and shopping directly within the app much easier. With 81% of people using Instagram to help research products and services, 130 million users tapping on shopping posts every month and 62% saying they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Instagram Stories, the introduction of dedicated shopping destination within the app was only a matter of logic and time*. For brands, Instagram Shops is a new kind of challenge, to develop creative content that stands out and converts directly from one post.

While Instagram Shops might be on top of the platform’s e-commerce portfolio, it is only one of many e-commerce tools in its belt. Over last two years, Instagram has introduced “Shoppable Posts” and “Stories Stickers” allowing to redirect users to specific products from posts and Instagram stories directly to Instagram Checkout – the payment interface. Another feature was announced recently and is called “Shoppable Instagram Reels” – which is basically Instagram’s answer to the popularity of TikTok content. Instagram Reels allow users to record and edit bite-sized video clips, set them to music and share among friends. Since a few weeks, Instagram is testing a shoppable feature within reels, that shall be extended this year. The interest in promoting Reels is even more understandable when we know that Instagram was recently surpassed by TikTok as the second favorite app among US teens (#1 is Snapchat).

What is more, since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Instagram has seen a surge in the live stream videos and the shoppable capabilities have joined the live experience on the platform. While live-shopping is still in its infancy in the US and Europe, the commercial opportunity for brands lies in the adoption of livestreaming shopping by the influencers. When we know that Instagram was at the origin of the influencer marketing, soon enough, it might be the norm to shop from an influencer’s Instagram live.

Many of this e-commerce tools will be expanding globally in months to come, and we shall expect even more e-commerce features to come into life. This said, Instagram is set to become a crucial shopping channel and could potentially be as disruptive as Amazon in the future. The soft power of Instagram is largely known. The platform has developed its own, easily recognizable visual language that has already disrupted the art of photography, food trends, tourism or even the process of designing physical spaces in order to make them ‘’instagrammable’’. In 2021, Instagram will further use this soft power to monetize and push its users to shop. With this significant pivot, let’s imagine walking into a store where everything on sale from beauty, food, fashion, home and décor etc. is matching perfectly our personal style, wish list and budget. Instagram has taken a shopping mall purpose of combining lifestyle with shopping to another level, through highly personalized recommendations and feed. As you scroll through Instagram Shop feed, you might be surprised by how much of it you simply want to add to the cart.

Why is it interesting?

For brands, the transformation of Instagram means shorter shopper journey and a perfect place to reach consumers in all stages of the buying process, from discovery, consideration, until the final decision – and all of that with a great potential of targeting and personalization for each user:

“For brands, it’s like opening a storefront in a shopping centre where the customers who are most likely to buy from them are automatically directed to their front door” – Arielle Pardes, Wired.

In 10 years of its existence, Instagram has come a long way. From a place to share photos with friends, to a modern temple of consumerism. In 2021, the shopping mall is no longer hundreds of square meters of stores, 3D cinemas and themed food courts.

In 2021, a shopping mall is an app on your smartphone.

*Data source:

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Mikaela Barbosa

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