why people in big cities buy more online

The Impact of Online Shopping in Cities

The increase in online shopping for urbanites has been altering how the cities around them look and develop. From an increase in trucks on the road to recycling programs for the package waste, city planners have been adjusting their approach to incorporate the large number of e-commerce customers that reside in cities.

Statistics of online city shoppers

In a recent study, Canada Post surveyed 5,000 online shoppers to examine trends and habits of Canadians when it comes to the e-commerce space. The results showed that nearly half of those lived in city settings (48 per cent), compared with 31 per cent living in rural communities.

Another statistic researchers found was that the largest number of those who shop online are millennials, many of who live in cities due to work or school demands. The research showed that 30 per cent of shoppers were between 18 and 35 years old.

Millennials have also invested into the sharing economy, particularly when it comes to vehicles. Thus, they are more likely to live in an urban environment and not to own a car, which can explain the higher number of online shoppers in the cities.

In fact, a WSJ report indicates that the convenience of online shopping has made the practice commonplace for many urbanites.

Truck Traffic Troubles

Another change that has some experts concerned has been the large number of delivery drivers on the roads. A UPS driver interviewed by CityLab said he prefers to walk his packages to customers rather than drive his truck along the route because of traffic and parking issues. His route has also changed due to demand. It has been narrowed down to just blocks rather than an entire neighbourhood. His previous territory has been divided up among other drivers as the company struggles to keep up with the high number of delivers every day.

The United States Post Office delivered over 3.1 billion packages in 2010 and by 2016 that number had risen to 5.1 billion. Elsewhere one publication claims that Amazon sales have risen from 16 billion in 2010 to $80 billion in 2016.

This increase of delivery personal and vehicles has become a headache for city planners trying to streamline the movement of traffic on city roadways.

However, the increase in traffic has not raised alarms for everyone. There are some experts who believe that streets will be backed up with more and more traffic as e-commerce deliveries increase. Yet, others believe the traffic will plateau as more delivery trucks hit the road and more consumers stay home rather than head to shops ultimately leveling out the number of vehicles on the streets.

Package Delivery Dilemmas

The onslaught of cardboard boxes has also been changing the way city officials plan recycling programs and even building design. Some of the changes include building parcel storage rooms in apartments and similar complexes, larger mail rooms and some have even added keyless lockers to protect residents’ packages.

On the other side there has been a rise in designer boxes by companies who want to stand out among the vast amounts of cardboard being shipped and delivered each day. This new demand has been leading to new jobs for production companies.

Empty buildings

One of the most notable changes that e-commerce has made on cities is the disappearance of many neighbourhood retails stores.

Many of the first stores to disappear, according to one article, are those that sell toys, books or electronics. Clothing stores have also been suffering, which in turn leaves many vacant spaces inside of malls.

Some of these buildings can be repurposed into warehouses for companies like Amazon while others can be turned into residential or office units, which have also been hard to come by in city environments.

Other changes

As a result of higher demand from city customers looking for faster deliver, businesses in the e-commerce industry have been looking into developing more urban warehouses to meet demand from city shoppers.

One major drawback of an increase of packages being dropped off at homes is the propensity of crime. Many police departments have issued a warning that the piling up packages is an attraction for thieves. While this used to be a problem that was largely a holiday concern it has now become an everyday risk for online shoppers.


While shoppers become accustomed to e-commerce as a reality of day to day life in the city, it has been changing the way cities function.

From a change in waste reduction and recycling programs to altering traffic flow plans and new development, city officials have been working on new ways to incorporate the downsides of online shopping in their communities.