Instagram has launched a live test of a new feature called ‘Map Search‘in Australia and New Zealand, which enables users to discover businesses and places of interest on the in-app map, and find information about each listed business, as well as place public placements marked with the location.
As you can see here, users with access to the new option are asked to tap on the map icon at the top right of the Discover tab. This then joins the new Map Search experience, which highlights in particular cafes and restaurants, but also shops, entertainment venues and more.
You can see in the last frame above that if you tap on one of the new marketers, it expands and more information about the place is displayed. For businesses, this includes working hours, location markers and pricing information, as well as the link to their IG profile, above a list of public placements marked in that location.
Although none of the businesses I looked at actually had price information available yet. I assume it will be built into Instagram’s business profiles, giving brands an option to choose their price list on screen, which can be an average estimate per meal for restaurants, and a ticket price for entertainment venues.
This is an interesting addition and provides a more direct connection between Instagram and businesses, which is increasingly an element that Instagram wants to emphasize inflow shops and business promotion options to facilitate extensive use. Instagram says it more than 200 million businesses use Instagram every month, while 90% of users follow at least one business, and the streamline of the connection works in line with both usage habits and the greater demand for business.
It’s also similar to Snapchat’s advanced mapping tool, which now also displays business information in the same way.
Snap added ‘My Places’ to his map back in july, which Highlight popular businesses, as well as places you have previously visited, on the map screen. The increasing utility may have forced Instagram to update its own ads, with the new Map Search offering similar features in terms of business discovery and detail.
But there’s a particularly interesting point about this new show – the icons themselves are square, as opposed to the usual Instagram circles. This is only interesting because it separates these new offerings from Instagram Stories.
This is notable due to the removal of Location Stories late last year, which prompted many users on Instagram to restart. Location Stories has enabled users to see public Stories placements from anywhere on the map – allowing you to search for your city and find all the stories placed in your area.
Though October last year, the option was removed, which was apparently part of Instagram’s temporary changes before the election, which were intended to limit the dissemination or misinformation or political abuse of the app. But it never came back. And with the new location icons here as squares, not as Stories circles, it looks like it won’t return anytime soon.
Which, as noted, would be bad news for the many Instagram users who asked for it to be turned on again. Yet the new Maps offering provides another way to connect with potential customers in the app, and to enable Instagram more to attract in-store traffic and visitors in this regard.
There is no word yet on a planned full rollout, but the option will reportedly be tested in more regions.