Retailers can add links inside Instagram Stories to drive users to their e-commerce sites.

Instagram’s Snapchat-like Instagram Stories, which let users and brands post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, may soon get a lot more appealing to online retailers.

The Facebook Inc.-owned social network today rolled out new features to Instagram Stories that the platform says is the “biggest update” to the format since its August launch.

The platform is running a test that allows verified accounts to add links to their Instagram Stories. It also is rolling out two new tools that make the format more social—users can now “mention” or tag another user in a story and they can add a Boomerang to their stories without having to use the Boomerang app (Boomerang is Instagram’s standalone app that creates 1-second video loops).

“This is making Instagram a more social social network,” says Rebecca Lieb, an independent media analyst. She expects the social-oriented tools will drive more users to use and engage with the platform.

Meanwhile, adding the ability to insert links to Instagram Stories fundamentally changes the platform, says Omar Akhtar, managing editor for business research and advisory firm Altimeter Group. “That’s a gift for people who want to promote their business or sell products,” he says.


Retailers will be able to add a link at the same time they create the story. After they take a video or image they can select a button to add a link, which appears as a See More button, which means consumers won’t know where they’ll be taken when they tap. When pushed, the button opens a browser within Instagram that navigates to the website or page the merchant selected.

The ability to add links to Instagram Stories also distinguishes Instagram Stories from Snapchat, which doesn’t offer that functionality because it keeps its users within Snapchat. “Snapchat Stories is such an in-the-moment, dynamic format—you push a button and get information out there—but it isn’t easy to use for commercial purposes,” Akhtar says. “It isn’t slick. It was built to be scrappy. This is the first time a platform has thrown in some commercial functionality into this type of format.”

By allowing retailers to link users to their sites, Instagram may persuade some marketers to use Instagram Stories rather than Snapchat Stories, he says. Before today’s announcement, only Instagram’s ads could contain links.