A systematic literature review on urban logistics and e-commerce data

Online retail channels increasingly shape consumers’ purchase behavior: we access a diversity of product types through web shops; employ both smartphones and digital screens in stores; navigate the retail space by browsing online; and order pantry items, fresh groceries as well as prepared foods to be delivered at our doorsteps.

The profound impact of online retail on mobility in cities where the concentration of consumers resides is an extensively investigated and growing topic of research interest. Likewise, studies that evaluate the various impacts of e-commerce or propose efficiency or sustainability-enhancing applications are plentiful in urban logistics. Regardless, the general lack of solid urban e-commerce logistics data is supported widely.

A study by Heleen Buldeo Rai and Laetitia Dablanc systematically reviews the literature to identify and compare the types of e-commerce data currently known, employed and disclosed in urban logistics research and the data sources that provide access to them. Within the set of identified data, knowledge concentrates on consumer preferences and the number of deliveries related to e-commerce.

However, the findings of the review confirm the general data paucity, specifically on delivery trip-related information such as deliveries per trip, number of delivery rounds, and vehicle specificities. In addition, discrepancies are found in methodologies to collect and compile data, as well as data units used (e.g., orders, parcels, deliveries) that cause significant variations in information possibly diverging from reality.

The study contributes to current literature and practice by compiling and analyzing currently available data on urban e-commerce logistics and presenting recommendations and best practices for future enhancements in this research field.

Based on the systematic literature review, the researchers propose a common data agenda for urban e-commerce logistics research, focused on addressing data gaps and topics that are under-developed and un-developed; pursuing data collection standardization; disclosing data collection methodologies and sources; and specifying temporal and spatial information as well as units of data. In addition, some data methodologies and references can be recommended for future research: using interviews to collect quantitative data; collaborating with sector organizations; exploring open maps; employing existing household and time use surveys, and leveraging technological opportunities and new ways of collecting data.

Source: Heleen Buldeo Rai & Laetitia Dablanc (2022) Hunting for treasure: a systematic literature review on urban logistics and e-commerce data, Transport Reviews, DOI: 10.1080/01441647.2022.2082580

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