Transport effects of e-commerce: what can be learned after years of research?
This paper offers an extensive review of conceptual and quantitative studies on the implications of business-to-consumer (b2c) e-commerce on mobility.
To create a more comprehensive understanding of the mobility implications we also discuss the complementary side: freight transport. Most studies conducted thus far have looked at the consequences of b2c e-commerce for either personal travel or goods movement, but not for both. The added value of this review article is that it not only explores the conclusions drawn in the wide-ranging published research, but also attempts to review the sampling strategies, definitions, assumptions and methodologies that lead to the diverse conclusions. For example, the paper discusses the differences in how “e-shopping” is defined (whether it includes browsing or only purchasing) and with what frequency a respondent e-shops (however it is defined) in order to be considered an “e-shopper”. The review describes how product differentiation is necessary to scrutinize the mobility effects of e-commerce. It points to studies which tend to have a dual conclusion. We try to observe whether complementary effects are given the same level of attention as substitution effects. Each of these factors can have sizable impacts on the quantitative conclusions reached. Our aim is that, by calling attention to these issues, the conclusions of studies will be discussed in a rigorous way to improve our knowledge of the transportation impacts of online shopping.