Is Instagram Building Its Own Shopping App?

It looks like Instagram is doubling down on its commerce aspirations.

According to a new report from The Verge, the Facebook-owned social media company is working on a standalone shopping app that will allow users to discover and buy from brands they follow.

Citing two people familiar with the project, the report says the app may eventually be called IG Shopping, and will offer users the chance to make purchases without leaving the app. It will also no doubt provide additional revenue streams for the brand, an ever-more-pressing mandate at a time when its parent company’s stock is taking a battering on slowing growth, regulatory scrutiny and fears of further election-related interference on the platform.

Instagram has already made it clear that giving businesses access to more shopping tools is one of its top priorities: in late 2016, it began testing commerce integration, first for major brands like Coach, Shopbop and Tory Burch, and later for companies of all sizes in 44 countries to date. Today, users can tap on posts featuring shopping-bag icons and pricing details and additional images of the relevant product, and tap out to the retailer’s website to buy. The company is also testing shopping on Instagram Stories.

The app recently surpassed the 1 billion active-user mark, according to Facebook’s latest earnings call, and 80 percent of those users follow at least one business.

Making Instagram more shoppable has long been a challenge for brands because of the app’s restrictions on linking (it only allows hyperlinks in bios, not captions), and while some tools have managed to get around that over the years, many were throttled in April by Instagram’s abrupt API changes, which restricted developer access in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. The most successful, rewardStyle-owned LikeToKnow.it, reportedly drove more than $1 billion in sales in 2017, has since largely moved off the platform to its own standalone app.

Instagram has also been investing in spinoff app concepts, launching long-form video app IGTV earlier this summer and testing Direct, a standalone messaging app, since December.

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