Mar 14 | 5 min read

Choosing the Right Self-Service Returns Kiosk for Retailers in 2023

Retailers are seeing an unprecendented number of returns. Here's one way to process them quickly and safely with returns kiosks.

Aila Staff

Retail returns have historically been a hands-on, close-contact process for major retailers. Especially in the post-holiday spike, returns can cause bottlenecks at the front of the store and at service desks that are already difficult to manage. Add in the obstacle of social distancing lines and returns become a major problem. Self-service returns kiosks can help alleviate some of the stress on retailers’ systems.

In-store returns have increased rapidly 

The rate of retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6% in 2021, up from 10.6% a year prior. This increase can be attributed to increased online shopping due to the pandemic, but also to shopper’s growing preference toward fast and easy customer experience. The influx of returns—both in-store and online—creates a two-part problem for retailers:

  1. Returns are costly to ship, process and restock
  2. They put further strain an already stretched-thin labor force

The goal for retailers? Process returns as quickly and easily as possible while encouraging shoppers to stick around to make new purchases while freeing up staff who are few in number and busy with other transactions. Self-service returns kiosks can help with both.

Self-service returns kiosks help streamline in-store operations

Retailers have used automation to handle traffic fluctuations for many years now with the introduction of tools like self-checkout kiosks. 

In a similar manner, self-service returns kiosks offer a glimpse of what a streamlined and socially distant and contact-free returns process could look like. 

Rent the Runway, a digital native brand that has since established itself in the world of brick-and-mortar retail provides one case study of how that might work. 

retail returns kiosk, self-service returns, rent the runway

Learning from today’s most innovative brands

The Rent the Runway returns system lets shoppers enter any participating location—such as WeWork or Nordstrom—to quickly drop off items, unassisted, in order to receive their next rental. 

This works by letting shoppers scan the tiny barcodes on the items they rent. They then drop their return into the bin for processing later. 

This process easily translates to self-service returns for other retailers, especially those dealing with smaller items and clothing. Customers can scan a barcode either on their return receipt or on their smartphone to process the returns. 

returns kiosk fleet, returns kiosks, self-service returns and drop-offs, rent the runway

Selecting the right returns kiosk for your stores

Let’s look at six of the main considerations when choosing the right self-service returns solution for your retail stores:

1. Size and Capacity

The size and capacity of a self-service returns kiosk are important factors to consider. The fixture should be large enough to accommodate the items being returned, but not so large that it takes up too much floor space in the store. The kiosk head unit should also be large enough to provide a user-friendly experience, but not so large that it uses unnecessary amounts of power or takes up valuable real estate in the store.

2. User Experience

A self-service returns kiosk should be easy and intuitive for customers to use. The user interface should be simple and straightforward, with clear instructions and prompts. The kiosk should also be accessible to all customers, including those with disabilities. Consider the placement of the kiosk within the store and make sure it is easy to find and access. At Aila, we find that iOS provides the best platform for creating experiences that are familiar and easy to use for the highest number of customers.

3. Integration with Existing Systems

It is important to choose a self-service returns kiosk that integrates seamlessly with your existing systems. This will ensure that returns are processed efficiently and accurately, and that inventory is updated in real-time. Look for a kiosk that can integrate with your point-of-sale system and inventory management software. This will help streamline the returns process and prevent errors or discrepancies.

Kiosks like Aila’s Interactive Kiosk can provide both returns and self-checkout capabilities, making it an ideal option to integrate into your technology stack.

4. Customization and Branding

A self-service returns kiosk should reflect your brand and enhance the overall customer experience. Look for a kiosk and fixture that allows for customization and branding, such as the ability to add your logo or brand colors to the fixture and the app. This will help create a consistent brand experience for customers and reinforce your brand identity.

5. Maintenance and Support

Finally, it is important to choose a self-service returns kiosk that is easy to maintain and comes with reliable support. Look for a kiosk that is designed for easy maintenance and repair, with components that can be easily replaced if necessary. Additionally, choose a kiosk provider that offers comprehensive support and maintenance services, including remote monitoring and troubleshooting.

self-service scanning for package drop-offs and returns

Aila’s self-service returns kiosks make the process even easier

Modular solutions, like the Interactive Kiosk from Aila, can be mounted to a range of surfaces and be placed nearly anywhere in the store. Further, they can utilize payment attachments and credit card readers so that returns customers can swipe their card to apply the credit to their account. While in the short term retailers may be focused on handing returns as accurately and efficiently as possible, over the long term it pays off to have technology that is versatile and able to adapt to changing needs. 

 Aila’s Interactive Kiosk, paired with your iOS-friendly software can help customers manage their loyalty account, view personalized offers, check out, and more. 

Get the Rent the Runway case study to see how Aila makes returns seamless and easy:

Get the Case Study

Start Your Download.

Please first complete and submit the form below.


Click the button below to begin your download.

Let's explore what Aila can do for you

Take the next step towards seamless self-service experiences

Book a Strategy Call