Infrastructures for online shopping: integrating supply and demand

Timeline: November 2015 – October 2017

Our team includes: Tony Whiteing, Ian Jones

Some of our key questions include:

  • How are methods and systems of shopping and delivering changing?
  • Where and when online non-food shopping occurs (home, work, mobile, etc.), the types of items purchased, how deliveries are scheduled and how this varies with sector and location e.g. urban, sub-urban or rural?
  • How they might be steered with consideration of the implications for CO2 emissions?

And these are some of the ideas we are engaging with:

Light van traffic has grown by 30% since 2001 and in 2010 accounted for 41 billion miles travelled whilst car traffic levels have grown by only 1% over the same period. This trend, which represents a major challenge for reducing energy use in the transport sector, is in part related to the extensive growth of home delivery linked to teleshopping and online purchasing. This project investigates the making of new systems of supply from the point of view of retailers and related organisations, and of those who shop online. At present, non food sectors are growing fast and supply chain models are not at all stable (in the food sector, delivery options are clearer).

Existing data on online shopping from Theme 1 will be reviewed and focus groups will be held to inform a programme of household interviews designed to discover how domestic ‘infrastructures’ of shopping – including transport and storage – are changing and to record experiences and views of alternative delivery options (to be developed in collaboration with project 2.1). Two in-depth case studies will be developed with different sectors in conjunction with IMRG (the UK Industry Group for e-retail; the British Retail Consortium) and third party operators (Home Delivery Network) to explore alternative scenarios for the future – in terms of product sourcing, stockholding locations, inventory management and transport arrangements over longer distances and for the ‘last mile’ to the customer. The final stage is to expand the scale of the research to identify the potential impacts of a sub-set of the most promising lower carbon solutions via a questionnaire survey aimed at a nationally representative sample of households.

For more detailed information about how the project fits into the Demand Research Programme you can read the 13-page DEMAND research summary.