HIGHLY regarded 4x4 aftermarket retailer 4WD1 has been very busy lately, expanding its suspension and 4x4 accessory product range (it’s now working with 10 major 4x4 aftermarket brands) and releasing an all-new and more interactive website.
AN ICON’S COMEBACK
ONE of 4WD1’s well-known brands is Rancho, with the company having a long association with this iconic Yank suspension brand, having imported it into the Australian market since 1990 where it enjoyed success for a number of years. Until, that is, the brand moved to a ‘geocentric’ model, where it concentrated on developing suspension systems for the North American off-road-vehicle market.
According to 4WD1’s Kirk Barker, this led to a drop in market share in Oz, as Rancho didn’t adapt to – or focus on – the changing off-road vehicle in Australia, particularly in regard to the ‘new’ suspension systems (IFS, coil-over-strut) appearing under 4x4s sold in Oz from the mid-2000s.
“At that time, Rancho didn’t really get on board, so there’s been a period where… they’ve not followed up on that sort of change in the Australian market,” Kirk said.
That has now changed, with Rancho re-focusing on the global market, with Australia and the Asia-Pacific region getting plenty of attention from the brand – which has also seen 4WD1 launch a Rancho-dedicated website (www.rancho.com.au).
“Over the last few years they [Rancho] have been working to change that… particularly with a full focus on the dual-cab market now, and 200 Series wagon and things like that,” Kirk told us. “Now they have the combination of both the quality of product that’s always been there, but the applications are there now… so Rancho is once again a very good thing.”
One of those ‘good things’ is the new, self-adjusting Rancho RS5000X shock, which will be available alongside the well-proved RS5000 model.
Kirk reckons the new damper is brilliant: “When people talk about shocks being self-adjustable, I mean most shock absorbers have a certain amount of self-adjustment to them, but often the reality of that is pretty academic, as in, whether you notice it or not.
“This product has a patented valve system, which allows the shock the ability to act softer or firmer according to the type of impact it receives and the speed of the impact that it receives. So its ability to actually adapt to the terrain is fair-dinkum.”
To explain how, Kirk said: “To help responsiveness, the shock is very high-pressure gas. A lot of shocks on the market are low-pressure – these are very high pressure gas. To achieve that and have a product that has a good lifespan, it has to be very precision-made and [have] very good top seals in the shock absorber, and this product has that. Having a high-pressure gas shock means the shock itself can be more sensitive and have a quicker reaction time – that’s part of what makes the RS5000X special.”
AN EASY ONLINE EXPERIENCE
THE new website (www.4WD1.com) offers buyers an excellent (and straightforward) buying experience, with the new site optimised for tablets and smartphones. The site includes a number of how-to videos and the option of Live Chat, so you can directly ask the company’s experts any particular product questions you may have.
The team’s aim was to ensure the online buying experience was as straightforward, simple and appealing as possible, while also providing a unique and personable touch that didn’t come across as too pushy or brand-centric. In other words, it was designed to replicate the in-store experience.
The site took 12 months to develop – as having so many brands on offer meant ensuring each one was given equal presence on the site, all while trying to ensure the buyer’s experience was one that would see them return again for purchases at a later date. The 4WD1 team was adamant this experience had to be the same, whether buyers were accessing the site via their computer, tablet or smartphone.
“We were – at least in the four-wheel drive industry – first-movers to the online world back in 1996… that gave us a fair bit of ‘first-mover’ advantage, which we’ve held for a long time,” Kirk said.
“Today, while most businesses do have a website – and there are plenty of online stores – I believe we still hold the advantage. While a lot of people have online stores, actually being able get the information you need and make an intelligent purchase decision – without extra help – is rare.”
Kirk believes the 4WD1 site streamlines or personalises it to your vehicle and eliminates the need to chase further info. “You can go and buy a suspension kit with a lot of complex variables that you normally have to think about, and we’ve planned it in ways so that you can go through and do that. Being able to take a complex purchasing decision and do it online through a checkbox-tick system [means], at the end of the day, you’ve got the right suspension kit for your vehicle.”
Along with the ease of use, the new website’s how-to videos section is constantly being expanded, while the Live Chat has been very popular with users. This writer gave both the purchase side of the site and the Live Chat a test-run and came away impressed with both – even after Kirk’s good-natured ribbing of my recent Land Rover Discovery 2 purchase!
With feet firmly in both the in-store camp and the online retail world, plus with the impressive number of highly-regarded 4x4 brands on offer, it’s easy to appreciate the 4WD1 team’s confidence in the ever-growing, ever-changing 4x4 aftermarket scene.