As online shopping continues to proliferate, an engineers' body has warned that delivery logistics ought to smarten up.
An Ipsos Mori survey carried for the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) found that of the 2,011 adults surveyed, 1,518 were online shoppers. Furthermore, of these, 968 (63%) had bought a minimum of three gifts online this Christmas.
While on the surface, the findings more or less echo empirical and anecdotal evidence from across the retail spectrum, IET's Professor Phil Blythe said the changing shopping habits need to be considered – both as part of an integrated transport policy and as well as an opportunity for technology chiefs at retailers to 'smarten up' their logistics platform.
"Traditionally, consumers would travel to the local high street or retail park to buy gifts. We are now seeing an explosion of online shopping, often where gifts are bought and delivered in many batches.
"This then results in more deliveries being made and a huge increase in emissions and congestion on our roads. We've heard a lot about delivery by drones, but this is at least a decade away."
Blythe said usage of smart logistics, which has found favour with some retailers' IT teams, help not only to minimise the carbon footprint but also lower dispatch costs.
"For instance, they could re-use a transport mode for these deliveries (such as a 'post bus') or utilise unused capacity in other non-retail delivery fleets a company holds or encourage shoppers to 'pool' all their orders into one delivery thereby reducing the number of individual deliveries to the same address."
While the IET did not flag up or endorse any particular logistics model, Amazon and Tesco are among those attempting the said pooling of deliveries with enticements ranging from free to lower delivery and shipping costs.
However, in the absence of a wholesale adoption of such techniques, the IET remains sceptical that the current switch by consumers in favour of online shopping was leading to a lower carbon footprint.
"Evidence suggests where people substitute a shopping or work car journey by an online one, activity does not necessarily reduce their car travel as they then make extra leisure journeys to maintain their social networks," Blythe concluded.