After a year, Instagram has brought its grand experiment with live shopping to an abrupt end.
On Tuesday, the company announced that it would remove the shopping capability from live broadcasting — a test feature only available in the U.S. since early 2022 — on March 16.
“This change will help us focus on products and features that provide the most value to our users,” Instagram said in an official statement. “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.” Other livestreaming features will not be affected.
When asked if live shopping was underperforming, and therefore not valuable enough to keep around, a spokesperson pointed to comments made by parent company Meta’s chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, on the earnings call earlier this month. Dubbing 2023 “the year of efficiency,” the CEO said the company would “be more proactive about cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be as crucial, but my main focus is on increasing the efficiency of how we execute our top priorities.”
These developments follow a previous announcement in January that shifted Reels and Shop in the app’s layout — the former from its center spot in the dock, and the latter completely off the landing page navigation.
Altogether, the moves may suggest that the company’s shopping initiatives are on shaky ground, but Instagram insists that’s not the case.
According to its data, the vast majority of users, at 90 percent, follow at least one business on the platform. They can still purchase through Instagram Shops and, as chief financial officer Susan Li said on the call, Shop ads remains among Meta’s major priorities.
That plays out amid other recent updates that brought support for showcasing NFT digital collectibles, as well as new tests for selling and minting them.
In a recent conversation, Eva Chen, Meta’s vice president of fashion and head of Instagram’s fashion partnerships, weighed in to help brands make sense of the company’s shopping strategy.
Ultimately, it’s all about honing the experience to capture consumers at the moment of inspiration — not push shopping in their faces at every turn.
“Instagram has always been like the ‘fashion love’ platform,” she told WWD in an exclusive interview. “What we have heard and seen is that people in the fashion industry love Instagram, because it offers them a variety of things — connecting with friends and family, yes, but also a plethora of inspiration.”
In one example, she recounted how creative directors once told her that they regularly find things for their inspiration board in the app, compiling entire collections based off of their feeds.
“So that moment of inspiration is something that we know that Instagram does exceptionally well, and so a lot of this change is geared toward shopping in a moment of inspiration, versus shopping as a destination,” she said.
It’s the distinction between visiting an e-commerce site looking specifically for, say, cargo pants, which are on trend right now, and discovering them on Instagram. They both end in transactions, but how consumers find them matters, especially for brands trying to reach new customers — which, in reality, is all of them.
“You’re scrolling through your feed, you see the street style of model Anok Yai leaving a show, and she’s wearing that, then you tap to see what the brand is,” she added. “It’s much more of this inspiration journey, so the new navigation is really kind of playing into that.”
Instagram placed the creation button in the center of its app interface, shifting Reels, the platform’s short video format, over by one spot. The change strategically highlights content, both creating and viewing it, and that should naturally feed shopping behaviors.
NFTs fit into the company’s grand scheme of monetization and creator tools as well, according to Chen, with subscriptions for creators and opportunities for brands to find and partner with Instagram personalities through the Creator Marketplace, as well as digital collectibles.
The tools are the lynchpin to this strategy. The more content they create, the more they can earn, so the features make it easier to do both. Live shopping might be the outlier then, if the content doesn’t draw views beyond the moment it airs or pulls in enough revenue. The company declined to share any metrics from its live shopping tests.
However, it’s clear that Instagram is betting that its other efforts and investments will be enough to keep creators coming back for more. There’s also another nuance that Chen hopes they catch onto: “Where does a creator show her journey of becoming a designer or a model, or show the moodboards and her process in crafting this new line? It is through Instagram. And so that organic storytelling, I think, is one of our superpowers.”