Optimizing e-commerce: drop-off points

Posted by Louis D'hondt on 18/01/2018

Stating that e-commerce is booming is an understatement. Unfortunately, another booming phenomenon is congestion. Lately, e-commerce is frequently mentioned as having a negative impact on traffic jams. "The shift from traditional shopping to e-commerce demands more vehicles on the road, causing traffic jams." The extent to which this is true is a difficult question. Comparing simulations is not. We all know that e-commerce will keep expanding. Is e-commerce really such a "congesting" phenomenon? If so, which steps can we take to boost e-commerce's evolution towards a lean and route-efficient system? Let's have a look at the impact of drop-off locations.

e-commerce congestion traffic mobility

In this post, we will compare two types of scenarios:

  1. Traditional shopping scenarios.

    The key question is: given a number e-commerce orders, how many traditional shopping trips would we make without e-commerce? 
    The ratio 'traditional trips/e-commerce orders' will therefore be the key variable throughout the set of traditional shopping scenarios.

  2. E-commerce scenarios.

    The key question here is: where and when does the customer want his order to be delivered? At home, at work or at a drop-off location? We will analyse 4 scenarios, each with different delivery locations and its corresponding timewindows.

For these scenarios we are using representative dummy orders and dummy vehicles from a fictional e-commerce company. For the traditional scenarios the customer drives to the shop, whereas in e-commerce scenarios, it's the shop driving to the customers.

 shopping vs e-commerce, traffic, congestion, mobility

Traditional scenario Traditional Dist. (km) E-com. Dist. (km) E-commerce scenario
Trip/order: 1/1 22 404    
Trip/order: 1/5 4 436    
    2 580 2/3 Home, 1/3 Work
Trip/order: 1/10 2 225    
    1 810 1/3 Home, 2/3 Work
Trip/order: 1/20 1 131    
    1 026 1/1 Work
    752 1/1Drop-Off Location


So what's the conclusion?

  • Exactly measuring the impact of e-commerce on congestion today is challenging, as many assumptions must be made. Certainty is wishful thinking.
  • Delivery hours (aka timewindows) can be very constraining on the efficiency of e-commerce transport.
  • Through a well-structured network and proper regulation, e-commerce can have a lower impact on traffic than traditional shopping. Drop-off locations is one of the options to explore.


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Topics: Route optimization, e-commerce, traffic

Louis D'hondt

Written by Louis D'hondt