Shop Direct highlights importance of UX Lab and owner Shop Direct has talked up its user experience (UX) laboratory, saying it is a way of hearing the customer's voice, despite not having a physical presence on the high street.

By launching the in-house UX lab at its head office in Liverpool, the retailer said it is able to get closer to its customers and understand how they interact with the business's portfolio of websites, which also includes

Shop Direct says it is the first retailer in the UK to build a UX lab in-house, and it is using it to work with customers to test new technologies and identify ways to personalise and enhance the online shopping experience. As retail becomes increasingly mobile, for example, the business has undertaken lab tests to see how consumers interact with mobile devices and where they are most inclined to look when using these screens.

Image trackers attached to the tablets scan people's retinas to check what they are actually looking at on screen.

Gareth Jones, group retail and strategy director at the e-tailer, said: "Today's online shopping experience starts and ends with the customer. We have a wealth of data at our fingertips and use it to understand what customers are looking for and why they shop and respond the way they do.

"Cutting edge innovations like our UX lab help us get closer to our customers and take even more of the guesswork out of online retail. We now know when we make changes to our websites or introduce new pieces of technology or functionality that customers are going to gain some benefit from them."

Jones's comments come on the 20th anniversary of the first ever online sale, which is widely reported to have taken place on 11 August 1994, when someone in the US purchased the Sting CD album, Ten Summoner's Tales, for $12.48.

Shop Direct published a study into online shopping habits to mark the occasion, with the research showing that 95% of consumers now shop online and that one in four people now do so at least once a week.

The survey of more than 1,000 people found that books (64%), clothing and accessories (60%), music and entertainment (56%), and electronics (54%) are the most popular online purchases.