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GSA Chooses Three Companies for Commercial E-Marketplace Platform Blog Feature
Haley Lawrie

By: Haley Lawrie on July 15th, 2020

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GSA Chooses Three Companies for Commercial E-Marketplace Platform

Resources and Insight | 4 Min Read

After years in the making, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced in late June that it has awarded contracts to three major e-marketplace platform providers to support implementation efforts for the Commercial Platforms program and Section 846 of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The chosen providers—Amazon Business, Fisher Scientific, and, Inc.—were selected for a three-year pilot program where GSA will test the use of commercial e-commerce portals for purchases below the Micro-Purchase Threshold (MPT) of $10,000.  (Note: This is a different Micro-Purchase Threshold than the recent update regarding the COVID-19 response that we discussed in an earlier blog.)

What does this mean for GSA contractors in the future? Let’s dive in to better understand GSA’s upcoming E-Marketplace Platform.

What Should We Expect from the E-Marketplace Pilot?

The E-Marketplace pilot program aims to provide a more modern approach to government acquisition for its federal customers, hoping to establish a more user-friendly and transparent approach. The pilot program would allow authorized government buyers to make purchases of $10,000 or less.

This could add up to no small bit of change—it’s estimated that open market purchases on government purchase cards represent a total available market of $6 billion annually. The goal is to streamline the process of procuring commercial products for purchases under $10,000.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy noted: “as federal procurement continues to evolve, simplifying how we purchase basic commodities will allow agencies to focus more on work that directly serves their missions. Federal agencies spent approximately $260 million using online portals last year, and it is critical that we use the Commercial Platforms program to better understand and manage this spend.”

The E-Marketplace model encourages competition at the supplier level by offering millions of products across a myriad of suppliers, and at the product level, with multiple suppliers competing to sell a specific product. The e-marketplace model also attempts to keep the user experience as close to existing commercial practice as possible for the portal providers, suppliers, and buyers by not requiring significant configuration of existing platforms or processes.

According to GSA Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Julie Dunne, the pilot program will start small and be refined through repeated testing. GSA will continue to solicit stakeholder feedback as has been the case throughout the program’s development.

The E-Marketplace approach is being shaped by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Best Practices for E-Commerce Platforms and Third-Party Marketplaces, and is intended to provide “better security practices, better data, and better pricing” for government procurement.

When Will the E-Marketplace Program Be Released?

This idea of E-Commerce portals isn’t a new idea--GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a notice announcing their interest in opening public dialogue back about the issue in 2018. The E-Marketplace Pilot is in direct support of the Federal Marketplace (FMP) Strategy, which is GSA’s plan to modernize and simplify the buying and selling experience for customers, suppliers, and acquisition professionals.

There have been clear signs that this change was coming. The E-marketplace is a welcome sign of public/private partnership. The Public Sector Director of Amazon Business, Anne Rung, stated that the company would offer an “efficient, cost-effective option for federal purchasing that brings savings to taxpayers while also supporting independent small and diverse businesses selling in our stores.”

GSA issued a solicitation for participation in the Section 846 Commercial e-Commerce Portals Implementation in October of 2019, with the proof of concept initially projected for early 2020. The Commercial Platforms Acquisitions was delayed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but is now expected to move ahead as planned.

Since the vendors were announced in late June 2020, GSA expects for the pilot for the Commercial Platforms program to launch at the end of July, approximately 30 days after the announcement. The platform is meant to build slowly over the three-year pilot program in order to build guardrails to manage risk and conduct regular check-ins with defined metrics to evaluate along the way. This on-ramp process will ensure the necessary training is put in place and any bugs in the system are noted on a small scale.

Where Can Contractors Go for More Information?

For those looking to engage in dialogue surrounding the new Commercial Platforms Initiatives, GSA Interact is the place to go. Here you can find current updates on the platform, read the Implementation Plan for the Commercial Platform, and sign up to get updates regarding briefings and in-depth information on the new platform. Winvale will continue to monitor any updates from the Commercial Platform and will inform our readers accordingly.

GSA also has several other platforms in which to sell to the government that are currently available for GSA Schedule contractors. These include GSA eBuy, which allows government buyers to post Request for Proposals (RFPs), and GSA Advantage!®, the federal government’s premier online shopping store.

For any questions you may have regarding the new E-Marketplace Platform or government contracting, reach out to the Winvale team today!

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About Haley Lawrie

Haley Lawrie is the Director of Training and Research at Winvale. She is originally from Lynchburg, VA and graduated from James Madison University with a degree in International Affairs and Spanish.

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