How Pep Boys Uses Instagram To Deepen Customer Engagement

Pep Boys, the auto accessories and car repair services chain, finds social media -- particularly, Instagram -- helpful in boosting customer engagement. It’s also working to enhance real-time, localized marketing to customers.

Speaking on Friday at MediaPost’s Cross-Channel Insider Summit in Phoenix, Rachel Silva, assistant VP of marketing for Pep Boys, said what’s most important to the brand is getting the right message in front of the right customer, at the right time no matter the media channel: TV, email, localized search, social or online circular.

Overall, its marketing challenge is how to implement localization at scale given the chain’s footprint in 35 states and Puerto Rico. Social media enables Pep Boys to connect with customers in a real-time, localized manner, Silva said. “Our challenge is how to connect with people who want that local experience and the ‘it’s my mechanic' feeling.”



Pep Boys has found that four out of five of searches have a local intent. Online marketing drives offline sales, and more than 90% of Pep Boys’ sales still occur in-store.

Instagram is a priority channel because it offers Pep Boys flexibility and natural engagement with customers vs. Facebook’s pay-to-play model. The brand posts content on Facebook that customers interact with -- but on Instagram it finds a more organic interaction with its customers and can address customer service concerns in real time.

For example, customers will often post selfies while waiting for their vehicles. In one case, a customer had been waiting around for a while and used the restroom. She found it dirty and wasn’t pleased. She snapped a selfie -- and Pep Boys was able to address the issue in real time with the store manager.

“We use a customer-centric approach no matter where our customers are coming from,” Silva said.  “We want to increase the lifetime value of the customer.” Instagram also enables Pep Boys to open a customer case file in real time about complaints and service issues and address them in real-time at the store level.

Looking ahead, local and mobile will be huge components of Pep Boys’ marketing strategy. “We take mobile [commerce] seriously but we think it should be a hybrid of driving store visits and transacting on mobile devices. Our goal is to drive local traffic into stores. We’ll test, optimize and expand our programs as we go,” Silva added.

Pep Boys' busy stores  aren’t franchises, so they’re managed at a corporate level with strict social media guidelines. The company isn’t sure how to incorporate its 19,000 store associates into the social media equation, since they don’t respond to customer comments or posts. However, associates do offer feedback to corporate via social media.

One of Pep Boys’ biggest cross-channel marketing challenges is marrying the offline channel to online. “We are tracking all online traffic through traditional KPIs [key performance indicators], but want to tie the data back to in-store sales, comp store sales and revenue. While we see directional improvements, we need more actionable insights,” Silva explained. The chain does receive directional information from Google about its search campaigns, and it works with Flip to track people who have viewed its online circulars and then have gone to a store.

Yext manages all of Pep Boys’ online local listings in real time, enabling the chain to update services and  promotions for each store at the DMA level. So in Phoenix, it can target and localize promotions for air conditioning, while in the Northeast and Midwest, it can offer targeted promotions for tires and related winter services.  

Yext also manages Pep Boys’ Facebook local listings, updating pages, online local listings, paid search results and organic search results in real time.

Launched in 2013, the partnership with Yext has helped Pep Boys achieve a 3x return on investment and a 200% lift in customer engagement, Silva said.

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