Instagram has just released the latest update of their app, with some key changes that will impact how we use the platform.

1. Notifications

New notifications location on InstagramNotifications, which were once found at the bottom of the screen, have now moved to the top. While this is going to cause some confusion initially, the new location actually makes sense because it’s now right next to your Direct Messages. This change makes the top part of the screen focused more on one-on-one interaction, while the bottom bar is now focused on discovering and exploring content.

2. Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels Icon on home screenInstagram introduced TikTok rival Reels in August 2020. While Facebook is known for successfully replicating features from other social platforms (such as Stories, which initially appeared on Snapchat), Instagram users have not been as quick to embrace Reels. This is partly because it was a bit of a struggle to find Reels in the app, where users would have to access Reels content via the Explore menu or by visiting an account page. Now, the centre button that was previously used to create a new post has been replaced by a Reels icon. Selecting this icon will open Reels much easier than we’re used to. This change is a smart tactic to push people to consume, and create, more Reels content.

3. Instagram Shop

New Instagram Shopping PageWhere the notifications icon used to appear is now where you can access Shop. Instagram Shop allows businesses to sell their products straight from Instagram. By clicking on tagged products in business posts and Stories, users can browse products, explore collections, and even purchase products through the in-app browser or via Instagram Checkout. In October 2020, Instagram announced the expansion of Instagram Shopping to IGTV and, eventually, Reels. By bringing Instagram Shop straight to the home screen, Instagram is encouraging users to explore this feature, which would lend itself to boosted sales, and therefore more businesses using the platform for its social commerce capabilities.

While these tweaks might seem small, their impact is going to dramatically change how we use and experience Instagram from now on. By more prominently showcasing Reels, users will be more likely to consume and create this content, allowing Instagram to compete with TikTok more aggressively. In addition, as much as Reels is for entertainment purposes, it can also be leveraged as a sales channel by partnering with influencers, and linking to featured products via Instagram Shop integration.

Particularly during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Instagram has focused on supporting and enabling small businesses with various features. The coronavirus pandemic has unquestionably accelerated the need for businesses, big and small, to make the customer journey as convenient and far-reaching as possible. Instagram’s redesign brings us one step closer to blurring the lines between social media and online shopping, something that businesses would be foolish not to consider.

People don’t typically like change, but I believe this will be a welcome change for both individuals, as well as businesses.