It’s important to note that not all areas are equally affected. In residential areas, for example, there will be an increase in freight traffic as home deliveries become more prevalent. This leads to a similarly increased demand for parking spaces.
Interestingly however, while e-commerce in the US doubled between 2007 and 2013, urban freight traffic levels remained more or less constant. This apparent decoupling effect may be due to greater logistics efficiency and capacity, although e-commerce still constitutes less than 10 per cent of total US retail trade.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the use of light commercial vehicles has increased steadily over a long period of time. This may be due to the increase in e-commerce, as well as tax regulations and licence requirements.
On the other hand, as e-commerce deliveries increase, brick-and-mortar shopping and personal travel should logically decrease. It has been argued that brick-and-mortar closures in the US are not a consequence of e-commerce, but rather representative of a structural shift in consumer preference and purchasing power. A decrease in brick-and-mortar revenue for consumer durables has been seen in Sweden.
The effect of increased e-commerce on traffic and infrastructure remains unclear, as mobility chains are complex, and the area is relatively new. The effect may be smaller than expected.
A study that compared energy use in e-commerce supply chains with traditional brick and mortar operations concluded that the net effect of energy consumption was positive for the e-commerce alternative, compared with conventional supply chains, in most of the cases studied. The energy saved in personal travel to and from brick-and-mortar stores was greater than the increase in freight transport energy expenditure for e-commerce.
Nonetheless, the last mile transport is the most inefficient part of the supply chain. Increased urban freight traffic directs focus to potential for efficiency improvements as well as requirements for off-loading zones for delivery trucks in urban areas.
E-commerce affects urban areas, and the impact will become more and more apparent as volumes continue to increase. Incorporating new trends and needs into urban planning and design will benefit citizens as well as e-commerce businesses.
- Those responsible for urban district planning and stakeholders in urban logistics need to be coordinated when requirements for future urban logistics facilities are specified, in terms of location and function.
- Compared to more traditional arrangements, the e-commerce supply chain has different requirements for space and location.
- Other key stakeholders, such as public authorities, can work to support new and innovative thinking regarding efficient supply chain strategies and design.
- Information to citizens about the effects of e-commerce on urban areas is another responsibility that falls on public authorities.
E-commerce supply chains and logistics needs to be given high priority on the political agenda in urban regions, as authorities can guide development in the right direction through incentives and regulations.