Introducing Workflows: a brand new platform for Vend

Kia ora! My name is Ludwig and I lead the Product Design teams here at Vend. I’ve been at Vend for just over four years now and in that time Vend has continued to deliver on the innovative spirit that we were built on when our founder, Vaughan, built Vend as the first POS for iPad when we launched around 10 years ago.

Vend has always been a really easy-to-learn, easy-to-use POS. We put a lot of effort into ensuring we understand retail and can offer retailers really great workflows that meet those criteria, rather than going for every imaginable feature and just cramming it in.

Every retailer is unique though, and at Vend we want to fit around the way you work, not force you to mould your business around the way we work. That’s why we offer you choice in terms of ecommerce and accounting partners (so you can choose what works best for you) and why we partner with many payment providers, rather than forcing you to use our rate.

Many of our competitors offer many features for all these different use cases. Those features are not great (often not even good) and the proliferation of these features almost always comes at the cost of ease-of-use, and ease-of-learning. You will have seen the old-POSes where everything is bolted on and there are just too many options crammed into every screen, or every feature is hidden behind an obscure tab or shortcut. The truth is, many cloud-POSes are moving in that direction and fast.

We’re not. And we won’t. To strike the balance between easy-to-use and super flexible, we’re releasing new APIs that enable developers to extend Vend’s workflow in the ways retailers need them to. That means you will only see what’s important, when you need to see it.

Our vision is to provide ways for developers to hook into all parts of Vend, to subscribe to events and respond—with in-app UI—in order to mould our in-app workflows around your business practise.

Events • External Logic • Actions

The vision

One day, developers and add-ons will be able to subscribe to Events that are triggered by workflows all throughout the Vend application. When you subscribe to these Events, you provide a Rule which itself can respond with Actions. Vend will interpret and honour these Actions and the UI will respond appropriately.

This means that developers will be able to extend Vend workflow for specific use cases or verticals.

Here are some ideas of what will be possible:

  1. When someone makes a sale containing liquor, please ask the cashier to verify their ID.
  2. When someone sells some meat, please request the weight. Or better yet, please fetch the weight from the scale.
  3. When someone buys a certain combination of items, please apply a specific discount.
  4. When someone from a particular customer group is added to the sale, provide a list of offers to the cashier for that customer.
  5. When someone receives stock for an electronics item, please ask the user to record the Serial Number for every unit in that stock receipt.
  6. When someone adds a new Product, please ask them to choose the Augmented Reality kit that should be shown on the website.
  7. When someone does an Inventory Count, please record the Aisle/Bin/Location for each unit.
  8. And there are so many more possibilities.

The thing is, not every retailer needs Aisle/Bin/Location, not every retailer needs ID verification, or serial numbers. If we added these features to the product, you’ll have to start ignoring half the things on the screen—we want everything on screen to be exactly what you need to see!

What we’re starting with: the Sell screen

We know that the most important place we can start, by far, is the Sell screen and so that is where we are starting.

Out of the gate we will be supporting 1 event (“Sale: Ready for Payment”) and 2 actions (“Stop” and “Confirm”).

The first event, “Sale: Ready for Payment”.
Responding with the “Stop” action.
Responding with the “Confirm” action.

All the text in those modals (including the buttons) are completely customisable. With just this one event and 2 actions we can already think of a number of use cases that retailers and developers can start to solve in a fully integrated way:

  • Confirming age verification
  • Enforcing the collection of IMEI/serial numbers for specific products
  • Enforcing limited quantities per sale for restricted items
  • Encouraging cashiers to add customers to the sale
  • Encouraging cashiers to make a personalised upsell offer

We’re also sure our creative retailers and developers will be able to come up with even more possibilities.

Now we won’t be stopping here, we’ll be looking to add more Events and Actions, but we think this is a pretty great place to start.

Some nerdy details: how does this work?

For examples of JSON blobs etc, please check out our API docs. For this post, I’ll describe how you would set up one of these rules.

  1. First, you will need to register your Rule with Vend. That’s basically a URL that we will talk to when the Event is triggered. So you need to say “Here’s my Rule, for this Event”.
  2. When the Event is triggered, we will reach out to your Rule (which is a service you host) and give you the full context for the Event. For “Sale” that includes some information about the Retailer Account, the Line Items in the basket, the Customer on the sale and the User who’s performing the sale.
  3. Your Rule will then need to decide what it wants to do. It can combine the information in Event context with information in your systems, or information you get by querying other Vend APIs and then ultimately decided to respond with an array of actions.
  4. You can respond with no actions. That means Vend will not change anything about the workflow that’s being initiated by the Event.
  5. You can respond with a “Stop” action which would prevent Vend from proceeding with the workflow (and we’ll display a message).
  6. Or you can respond with a “Confirm” action which would present the user in Vend with a message and two options: proceed anyway, or stop.

Essentially Vend and your application will be able to have these conversations as you and your staff go about your day-to-day use of Vend, and these third-party applications can enhance Vend in all the ways you need them to!

So that’s Workflows. We are immensely excited about this. We look forward to hearing from those of you who would like to start writing against this API.

Kia kaha from the entire Product, Design and Engineering organisation at Vend.

Hey NZ and Australia 👋, it might be April 1st but this is not a joke. This is really cool and really real!

— Lud

About Ludwig Wendzich

Ludwig is the Director of Product Design at Vend by Lightspeed. He’s been leading Product and Design at Vend since 2016. Before Vend, he worked as a Senior Front-End Engineer at Apple’s Marcom team in California.