Theses Master's

The Two Tales of a New Retail Ecosystem: Analyzing How E-commerce Reshapes the Urban Retail Landscape through a Case Study in Shanghai, China

Wang, Xifan

During the last two decades, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has been recognized as one of the fast-growing urban technology and with ICT, a drastic increase in e-commerce transactions have been observed, threatening the traditional physical retail industry, changing its current network based on distance, and restructuring the existing retail ecosystem. As vast changes due to the new technologies have been observed in China, this study chooses one of the biggest and new technology adapted cities, Shanghai, as a case study and focus on its local impact induced by e-commerce. This study, positioning in the middle of this change, is thus framed as “the two tales of a new retail ecosystem”.

By analyzing brick-and-mortar (B&M) retail and e-retail, this research aims to have a holistic understanding of the new retail ecosystem in downtown Shanghai. E-commerce trends are examined through local context and relevant reports. Changes in the geographic distribution of retail stores over year are examined through spatial analysis, Kernel Density Estimation (KDE), on point of interest (POI) datasets of retail stores in Shanghai. Shopping behavior changes due to the emergence of e-commerce as an option are examined by surveys collected at two selected neighborhoods. The survey analysis also implies the potential influence of e-commerce on conventional retail landscape, and links the e-commerce trend and the change in physical retail networks. Convenience goods and comparison goods are categorized to understand the different impacts.

The findings suggest that instead of a one-way effect by e-commerce on physical retail sector, a mutual relationship exists between the two, leading to a deeply integrated new retail ecosystem, as well as distinct effects on comparison and convenience retail. Being aware of this new system is essential for planners to reconsider the commercial planning for cities. This study proposes a new planning paradigm and other recommendations to address the issue.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Meisterlin, Leah M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 14, 2021