Increase in the use of the home delivery service during

TROY, NY — Services like Instacart, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Amazon certainly existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the demand for groceries, food and other products purchased online and delivered directly to your doorstep increased dramatically as the coronavirus forced many Americans to stay home. But how much has demand for deliveries increased, who is using the services, what types of products are being delivered, and perhaps most importantly, will this increase in usage last? Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers are answering these questions to help policy makers and transport logistics planners.

In the first in-depth study of initial adoption and intent to maintain delivery services during a pandemic, Cara Wangan associate professor in Rensselaer’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, found that more than 90% of people who use online delivery services would likely revert to their original mode of purchase.

“It is likely that the increased use of e-commerce is not the result of market competition, where the most efficient competitor outperforms the rest,” Dr. Wang said. “On the contrary, an external disruption – the pandemic – has dramatically changed the playing field. Once this external effect is removed, some of the gains made by delivery services will likely diminish.

Using a survey method and computer modelling, Dr. Wang determined that not all delivery products are the same and not all consumers use delivery services in the same way. .

Dr. Wang identified four distinct types of users: non-adopters, former adopters, new temporary adopters, and new permanent adopters. And delivery service users access products in four different categories: groceries, food, home goods, and other items.

Research has shown that the initial adoption of delivery services and the intention to continue using them vary by type of goods. Grocery deliveries had the highest proportion of new adopters, followed by home goods, food, and finally other parcels. These results imply that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a greater impact on opportunities to purchase essential items than less essential items.

The study also found that while the number of users for grocery deliveries increased by 113% during COVID, nearly half of these new adopters would not continue to use it after the pandemic is over.

New temporary adopters represented a larger proportion than new permanent adopters for essential items, while there were more new permanent adopters for less essential items.

These results are essential for studying the impacts of the pandemic and forecasting future demand.

“Answering these questions is essential for estimating current and future demand for deliveries,” said Jose Holguin-Verasdirector of the Rensselaer Infrastructure, Transport and Environment Center and co-author of the article. “Transport professionals and researchers assumed that people would still depend on delivery services even after the COVID crisis was over. However, in reality, consumer acceptance of technology is much more dynamic and complex during a pandemic than under normal conditions. Understanding these nuanced behaviors is key to developing sound transportation policies. »

The document “Adoption of Delivery Services in Light of the COVID Pandemic: Who and How Long?” was also co-authored by Woojung Kim and Joshua Schmidt, both PhD students in Rensselaer’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s premier technological research university. Rensselaer comprises five schools, 34 research centers, over 145 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a vibrant community of over 7,600 students and over 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 155 National Academy members, six National Inventors Hall of Fame members, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners and one Nobel laureate of physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on solving global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit


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