The impacts of e-commerce on disaster-driven purchasing behaviors: lessons learned from the covid-19 pandemic

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Kim, Woojung
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Civil engineering
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Disasters ranging from common natural disasters to uncommon pandemics and man-made disasters bring lots of changes to our daily lives and their surrounding environments in various ways. The most recent and largest one for the past several decades, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID) pandemic, has also greatly transformed human behaviors. The most evident change was a surge in online shopping in an effort to avoid stopping by crowded stores. This change was not observed during the previous major disasters due to the relatively short history of online shopping. Given the increasing role of online shopping in transportation and logistics systems, the changes and their impacts deserve more attention from researchers to better respond to a disaster. To fill the knowledge gap, this dissertation quantitatively examined several aspects of disaster-driven purchasing behaviors resulting from e-commerce and their implications for policymaking and planning. The first part of this dissertation investigated the temporary increase in online shopping demand during the pandemic. The COVID pandemic has triggered an increase in delivery services. However, whether or not they would still exist after the pandemic ends is unknown. To explore (a) the initial adoption of delivery services and (b) continuance intention, a series of discrete choice models were developed. Insights for planning and policy were discussed by identifying contributing socio-economic and demographic factors. The second part explored the relationship between shopping channels. The increase in online shopping during the pandemic has changed the existing relationship between in-store and online shopping. It is important to understand the relationship due to its implications for transportation systems. Thus, this research studied how the e-commerce interacts with in-store shopping during the pandemic and how the relationship between channels changes over time (before, during, and after the pandemic) by developing structural equation models. The last part of this dissertation investigated stockpiling with online shopping. Although online shopping has changed the way of stockpiling during a disaster, the impact and role of e-commerce in stockpiling have not been investigated. This research explored a series of decision-making regarding stockpiling (i.e., whether or not and how much to stockpile) and the role of e-commerce in them by developing discrete choice models. The results provide new insights for disaster preparedness and logistics systems planning. The insights from this dissertation would lay a fundamental groundwork for disaster-driven behavior research. Planners, policy-makers, and logistics managers can benefit from this dissertation so that they can proactively plan ahead for the next disasters.
School of Engineering
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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