Retail Business Online

Workflows Continue to Raise the Bar for the Developer Experience

On April 1, 2020, we publicly released Workflows, a platform that brought third-party developers right into the Vend experience—in real time! Over the next year, Workflows would get better, and better. We added Custom Fields, as well as extending the amount of triggers and actions that were available on the Sell screen.

Near the end of 2020, we had an extremely flexible set of APIs that could deliver almost any experience we could throw at it. So we decided to take stock. It was time to make it easier for developers to get started with Workflows. So, over the last year our focus has been on two things:

  1. Continue to improve the experience of using Workflows for both developers and retailers
  2. Make it even easier to get started and sell something valuable built on top of Workflows.

We’ve driven this mainly through Custom Fields and Third-party Billing APIs:

  1. Instead of developers having to build a bunch of configuration UI in your own app, you can now simply let Vend do it via Custom Fields.
  2. Now that you don’t need to manage configuration, you can stop synchronising all those products catalogs and CRMs.
  3. Which means…wow! You can just use a simple Lambda on AWS to respond to Business Rules.
  4. But wait there’s more! We’ve enabled you to hook into our billing so you can just get selling your Workflows App.

With the improvements to Custom Fields and our new Third-party Billing APIs you can build and sell your new Workflows App in hours.

Before, developers may have needed to synchronize the entire product catalog or CRM to configure which products or customers should result in actions via Workflows triggers (for example: “Requires Age ID”, “Has Serial Numbers” or “Related Product”) as well as creating a user interface to allow retailers to edit this information. That, by itself, also requires a whole bunch of extra infrastructure work beyond saving and editing values—like managing authorisation and access. Developers also needed to manage billing on their own—which either meant manually doing it, or building their own billing systems.

Today, none of that is required!

This is completely revolutionary. The bar has never been this low to deliver a monetized first-class experience directly to retailers at the point-of-sale. Let’s revisit the vision from 2020 to see what developers can deliver today, with so little investment:

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

Now there are two items in that list asking you “watch this space”. What sets them apart? Well, while Workflows’ Custom Fields are available throughout Vend on Customers and Products, today Workflows’ Business Rules is only available at the POS. These identified workflows would require the triggers and actions from Business Rules to be available in our inventory workflows. And that might give you a hint as to what we’ll be looking into next!

Changelog

Below is a short list of the most recent updates to the Workflows platform in reverse chronological order:

  • Aug 27: Custom Fields settings can now be seen by retailers within Vend (at /setup/custom-fields). This will make it much easier to debug what’s going on in a retailer’s account—as Custom Fields created by third-party apps also show up and are attributed to each app.
  • Aug 17: Custom Fields can now be edited on both Products and Customers within Vend. This means that basic configuration against Products/Customers can happen in Vend and does not require a full sync of the product catalog/CRM to a third-party UI. e.g. “Has Serial Numbers” boolean, or “Requires Age ID” boolean can all now be done directly in Vend. All Custom Field types are supported (not just Booleans) which means even configuring a “related product” can be done directly in Vend.
  • Jun 29: Vend released a Serial Numbers feature built on top of Workflows. This is the first time Vend has built our own production ready application on top of Workflows. We plan to do many more of these as we have found Workflows to be a powerful platform to build delightful experiences on—quickly. Note: This should give third-party developers confidence that we are investing more and more into the Workflows platform. As we dogfood the platform, we’ll continue to learn how it needs to be improved—and those improvements will be available to our own developers as well as third-party developers.
  • May 12: Custom Fields for Products can now be read in Vend. This means that any values set on Custom Fields for Products will be visible to cashiers. Remember that Custom Fields can be set to hidden, visible or editable
  • Apr 28: Custom Fields for Customers can now be read in Vend. This means that any values set on Custom Fields for Customers will be visible to cashiers in Sales History and the Customers listing page. Remember that Custom Fields can be set to hidden, visible or editable.
  • Feb 17: Workflows is now automatically enabled for any application that uses Third-party Billing. There are two ways that the Workflows platform can be accessed: for retailers on our Enterprise plans, or for any app that uses third-party billing. To date, the feature has been managed manually on accounts. As of today, it is automatic! Demo Accounts also have Workflows enabled to enable you to develop your applications with ease. This means Developers only need to email [email protected] to request a Demo Account so they can develop their applications. All production accounts will automatically be configured to have Workflows turned on—and if you already have a Demo Account, you do not need to contact Vend to get started.
  • Nov 6: Third-party Billing APIs are now available. Selling add-ons to Vend has just got a lot easier. We’ll handle the billing for you! Better yet, add-ons that are built on top of Workflows (and thus require minimal supporting infrastructure) can leverage these APIs to enable automatic billing through Vend. Using Third-party Billing is a requirement for applications to get access to our premium APIs including the Workflows suite (Custom Fields and Business Rules.)

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.

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