Rethinking Last-Mile Retail Distribution Strategies in a Pandemic

Research Team: Miguel Jaller (lead), Anmol Pahwa

University: UC Davis

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in e-commerce as e-retailers have witnessed an unprecedented surge in demand, forcing them to reorganize their distribution activities to delay or drop delivery of non-essential items. Many e-retailers have had to rapidly scale up their operations with limited resources leading to lower service levels. This raises important questions on the ability of e-commerce to resist, absorb and recover from the consequences of such disruptions and maintain freight mobility.

Project Description: Using the R4 resilience framework (robustness, redundancy, resourcefulness and rapidity), this project will will assess the performance of last-mile delivery model strategies under rapidly changing demand and supply scenarios utilizing multiple sources of data on e-commerce, shopping travel patterns, and impacts on e-retailer operations. The project will also document the impacts of unpredictable fluctuations in consumer demand as experienced with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chains and distribution channels of e-retailers, including product availability, delivery lead times, prioritization of services, lack of drivers, and workforce consequences of COVID-19 outbreaks at distribution centers. The report will produce policy and planning recommendations to maximize the overall benefits of e-commerce during pandemics and other disruptions. Particular attention will be paid to recommendations for promoting e-commerce when benefits outweigh the negative consequences, and identifying critical factors such access to the curb.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $89,500