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Instagram’s new Explore grid tempts you to open your wallet

Instagram’s Explore tab has steadily evolved over the years with occasional tweaks and features designed to nudge you into increasing your follow count as well as the amount of time you spend on the app.

Now the Facebook-owned company is doubling down on its efforts to get you to open your wallet and shop via Explore with a redesigned navigation bar that’s rolling out first in the U.S.

The Shop button pinned at the top of the bar offers quick access to category filters such as beauty, clothing, and home decor, Instagram said in a post announcing the new look. You’ll also find a new shortcut to IGTV that takes you to a personalized collection of recommended videos. More buttons show for topics such as art, nature, and travel, making you just one tap away from a grid of categorized content lovingly generated by Instagram’s algorithms.

The company says it’s pinned Shopping and IGTV to the front of the bar because it wants to make it easier for you “to find products and videos from brands and creators you love,” but you can also read that as, “to increase your chances of going down a rabbit hole and buying stuff you didn’t know you needed” — behavior that will of course delight the brands and businesses that are paying Instagram to advertise on the site. Everyone’s a winner!

But that’s not all. The powers-that-be have also decided to add Stories to the Explore grid “to help people experience the full breadth of interest content on Instagram.” So, in the same way that Explore conjures up posts based on subjects Instagram thinks you’re interested in, the grid will now offer up personalized Stories recommendations, too.

Stories, which are used by more than 500 million Instagrammers on a daily basis, currently appear at the top of your feed from people you follow. Now confident of Stories’ popularity, Instagram hopes that adding the feature to the Explore grid will ultimately help its community to find more people to follow, which should lead to increased engagement on the app. Stories in the Explore tab will start rolling out “over the coming weeks.”

Half of Instagram’s more than one billion users hop over to the Explore tab at least once a month. Instagram hopes the changes will persuade them to do so a little more often, while encouraging the other half to take a look, too.

In other Instagram news this week, the company said it’s decided to shutter its stand-alone Direct messaging app, which it’s been testing since 2017.

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