The surging use of home delivery services in the past two years is unlikely to last as pandemic conditions ease, according to research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Researchers from Rensselaer’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering found that more than 90% of people who use online delivery services such as Instacart, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Amazon are likely to revert back to their original ways of shopping when the threat of the pandemic is gone.
The researchers surveyed more than 900 consumers and used computer modeling to determine the extent of increased delivery, product demand, and likely usage trends. The results were published in a paper titled, “Adoption of delivery services in light of the COVID pandemic: Who and how long?” by Associate Professor Cara Wang and co-authored by Woojung Kim and Joshua Schmidt, doctoral students in Rensselaer’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The research identified four distinct types of delivery service users–non-adopters, prior adopters, temporary new adopters, and permanent new adopters–and divided delivery services into four different categories: groceries, food, home goods, and other items. Essential services had the highest proportion of new users during the pandemic, with the number of people using grocery delivery increasing by 113%. The study found that half of those new users would not continue that behavior after the pandemic, however.
Temporary new adopters accounted for a larger portion than the permanent new adopters for essential items, while there were more permanent new adopters for less essential items, the researchers said.
The results will help predict future demand and can be used to shape transportation and logistics policies, they also said.
“Answering these questions is essential to estimate the current and future demand for deliveries,” according to José Holguín-Veras, director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment at Rensselaer and also a co-author of the paper. “Transportation professionals and researchers have assumed that people would still rely on delivery services even after the [Covid-19] crisis is over. However, in reality, consumers’ technology acceptance is much more dynamic and complex during a pandemic than during normal conditions. Understanding these nuanced behaviors is essential for sound transportation policy making.”