Life has some simple pleasures and, for me, it is mowing my lawns. .

One of the attractions of moving to Whanganui a few years back was the opportunity to have a bigger section and "space for the kids to run around".

What comes with that is a weekly commitment to bring order to the various types of grass that have taken over our section.

Read more: Business Zen: Goodbye Facebook
Business Zen: Small pool of big directors


It is also a time that I can don a pair of headphones and listen to anything I want. It is here that I can indulge in music which I couldn't play in the house – tunes which would be described by Mrs Bell as a "loud racket" or "horrible noise".

Essential to this is a good pair of headphones which, on Sunday to my horror, beat for the last time. Ahead of a trip to Noel Leeming I went online to check out prices and to see whether the talk that online retail is "so much better" is true. Well, it's not – at least not yet.

There has been much talk of the behemoth that is the Amazon corporation, the home of the shoppers' algorithm and fast-establishing itself as an entertainment empire.
So into the land of tech entrepreneur Jeff Bezos I went ...

At first, the best fit replacement was cheaper than I expected, until I noted the price was in US dollars. A quick calculation later we were still on target for a cheaper replacement – that was until the cost of freight was added. Not to mention I had to wait weeks to get my hands on the item – a lot of time getting used to the hum of a lawn mower engine.

In addition, there was no opportunity to try on the headphones and test them out. I guess that online platforms rely on users having faith in the product or going to an unsuspecting retailer to try on the goods and say "just looking thanks".

More to the point, you can see why Amazon is moving to bricks and mortar stores. I read recently that large clothing manufacturers are moving online towards "try the item at home", albeit this will likely struggle against the "I want it now" consumer. It will be interesting to see if this takes off.

There is also much talk of the "experience" of shopping online but it is here where local retailers have an edge – particularly because a website, app or call centre is not a human being.

So where presentation, customer service and attention to detail was important, it is now crucial. Retailers also need to look ahead and see what is coming and I am working with retailers helping them to prepare for a fast changing future — type into Google "augmented reality in retail" for an example.

However, this does not diminish the threat online presents to established retail businesses. Unlike big box retail, which is also on the rise, online businesses are out there interacting with your customers in their homes. They are also open 24x7 and use smart technology to shape their presentation to the individual user.


So, having your own effective online presence becomes an essential first step.
After further research, I am happy to say that my purchase will be made in Whanganui with a business that I trust and my money will stay in the community. They can supply the brand of headphones that I want (a like-for-like replacement) and I will immediately have the goods after having them tested in store with a salesperson who will have the opportunity to show and demonstrate alternatives.

Best of all, I won't have to wait for — or pay for — delivery. And I can continue mowing the lawns to the silken sounds of Metallica.

Balance Consulting is a Whanganui consultancy specialising in business strategy, process excellence and leadership mentoring — contact Russell Bell on 021 2442421 or John Taylor on 027 4995872.