First Advisor

Kelly J. Clifton

Term of Graduation

Summer 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering




Grocery shopping, Delivery of goods, Consumer behavior, COVID-19 Pandemic (2020- ) -- Influence, Teleshopping



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 186 pages)


In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted travel for in-person shopping, commute trips, global supply chains, and food business operations. Previously mundane tasks, like shopping for food and household items, became markedly different as new social distancing and mask guidelines were put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Concurrently, e-commerce sales in the U.S. skyrocketed. E-grocery pickup and delivery services saw unprecedented expansions. The adoption and use of e-grocery services have implications for equity and mobility, although the nature of the relationship of e-grocery to the latter is still unclear. Enhancing our understanding of the drivers of (and barriers to) online grocery shopping and its potential "stickiness"--or the extent to which e-grocery use will continue at the same or higher frequencies after the pandemic--is a prerequisite for unpacking current and future consequences of this ecommerce sector on people and transportation networks.

The goal of this work, then, is to 1) explore the drivers of adoption and use of e-grocery services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2) estimate "stickiness" of online grocery ordering behaviors. Survey data (N=2,266) capturing household and individual information on demographics, attitudes, and behaviors are employed in carrying out this goal. First, individual e-grocery delivery adoption is explored using a series of mixed logit models disaggregated by household income. Demographics, COVID-19 related variables, and attitudinal indicators hold significant explanatory power in estimating the probabilities individuals will fall into non-adopter, pre-pandemic adopter, or during-pandemic adopter categories.

Next, relationships between in-store and online grocery shopping trip rates are investigated utilizing random parameters Tobit and hurdle models. Model results demonstrate heterogeneous and often asymmetric relationships between shopping modes. Finally, whether or not households will retain (or increase) their already elevated e-grocery shopping behavior is examined. A random parameters binary logit model is applied to identify factors affecting the probability households a) ordered groceries online more often during the pandemic compared to before the pandemic, and b) expect to hold or increase the proportion of their groceries purchased online in the next year.

The culmination of results show attitudes and COVID-19 related variables are strong drivers of e-grocery adoption, use, and stickiness. With respect to attitudes in particular, households with shoppers who find shopping online for groceries to be easy and who know others who shop online for groceries have a higher likelihood of adopting and using e-grocery services, as well as continuing these behaviors in the future. COVID-19 related characteristics -- including individual and household experiences related to employment, income, remote work, diagnosis, food insecurity, and changes in food shopping behaviors -- were found to be significant across the suite of estimated models, demonstrating the sheer impact of the pandemic on household provisioning behaviors. Results from the "stickiness" analysis suggests households that are multimodal, below retirement age, and located in places with high e-grocery service availability are more likely to hold or increase their already elevated e-grocery usage. Households who have at least one member particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 or who reduced their in-store shopping frequency during the pandemic are also more likely to have e-grocery shopping "stick". Attitudes of household grocery shoppers also play a significant role: households whose shopper thinks it's easy to shop online have an almost 17%-point higher probability of holding or increasing their already elevated proportion of groceries purchased online.

The work concludes with a synthesis of findings, highlighting key drivers of and barriers to online grocery shopping, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on e-grocery, and implications for transportation systems and practice. This discussion includes recommendations for policy and future work.


© 2021 Gabriella Abou-Zeid

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