(Credit: Instagram)

For an app developer, one of the appeals of adding a feature is that it makes people less likely to close your app and open another. Meanwhile, buying stuff is a multi-trillion dollar business, so if you can credibly wedge that into your app, that means more opportunities to retain your user (and collect a little customer profile data along the way, probably).

Instagram (Android, iOS) has been rumored to be working on a separate app called IG Shopping, but the company announced today that it was integrating this experience directly into their main app, in two forms: a dedicated shopping channel topic and Shopping in Stories.

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Instagram's new Shopping channel

Instagram launched channels just a couple months ago, and your current choices include Humor, Food, Travel, Art, DIY, Music, and several other categories, arranged in the order of your detected interests.

Users can access the Shopping channel by tapping the magnifying glass icon at the bottom, then selecting the Shopping channel at the top. You may need to swipe your channel list to the right for Shopping to show up.

Instagram is rolling this channel out gradually, so you might not see it show up in your app yet. In the meantime, you may want to consider following the #shopping hashtag to get accustomed to the idea. Just open the Explore tab (the magnifying glass on the bottom), tap the search box at the top, type shopping, tap Tags, tap #shopping, then tap the Follow button.

Tapping a channel on the Explore tab will collect recent and relevant trending posts from around Instagram, for you to browse by swiping up ad infinitum. Accounts you follow, and their related hashtags, will be prioritized in the feed.

If you tap and hold on one of the items in this feed, you'll get a pop-up version of the post that disappears when you lift your finger. Or, while keeping your finger down on the screen, you can slide down to a row of actions below the item; you can like a post, view the user's profile, send them a message, or access a miscellaneous menu, depending on which icon your finger is on when you lift it.

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Shopping in Stories gets a worldwide launch

Instagram began testing Shopping in Stories in June, and the feature is now available for the general public in 46 countries around the globe. Now when you see a Story with a shopping bag icon in it, you can tap on the icon to view the item with a brief description, price, and a button to go to a website that sells the item.

Instagram says that one-third of its most-viewed Stories are produced by "businesses," and it claims that over 400 million accounts access this section of the app every day. That's 100 million more than when the shopping initiative was announced on June 12. The implication is that Instagram may be a good and growing marketplace to hawk your wares, though we suspect that your success will still scale roughly to brand recognition.

Also be aware that many product posts on Instagram are paid promotions, and this distinction may not be clear, despite the Federal Trade Commission laying out clear guidelines for how to do it legally. Protip: #sponsored and #ad are the only general hashtags recognized by the FTC for this purpose.

The takeaways

  • Instagram (Android, iOS) has added a shopping channel and the ability to shop within Stories.
  • These features are rolling out gradually, so they may not appear in your app right away.
  • To shop within Stories, tap o items that have a shopping bag icon next to them. This will show you a photo of the item, a description, a price, and a button you can tap to go to the website that's selling it.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.