GSA’s E-Marketplace Initiative Offers Significant Opportunities for Small and Diverse Businesses 

Ilija Erceg/istockphoto.com

The federal government has met or exceeded its overall small business spending goal every year since 2013. Despite this achievement, the already low number of small businesses in the federal contracting market has decreased and the government continues to underutilize diverse businesses. Recognizing these shortcomings, the Biden administration has made the expansion of contracting opportunities for small and diverse businesses a centerpiece of its federal procurement policies. 

E-marketplaces, such as those participating in the General Services Administration’s Commercial Platforms Initiative, or CPI, offers federal agencies an innovative, market-driven way to work with small and diverse businesses. The CPI provides agencies with access to three e-marketplaces—Amazon Business, Fisher Scientific and Overstock Government—for purchases of commercial off-the-shelf items below the micro-purchase threshold using government purchase cards. The e-marketplaces in the CPI are similar to their commercial counterparts, but as discussed below, offer additional advantages that are unique to the federal customer.

Since the CPI’s launch in August 2020, there has been significant agency interest in the program. In the program’s first year, participating agencies made tens of thousands of purchases from the three marketplaces, roughly a quarter of which were for personal protective equipment and other items related to COVID-19. Since March 2021, there has been increased growth, with more agencies continuing to onboard. When asked about their experiences using the e-marketplaces, participating agencies are responding with overwhelmingly positive feedback, giving the CPI a score of 9.2 out of 10 for customer satisfaction. Participants cite benefits such as time savings, price competitiveness, and access to tools designed for government buyers. 

As the program continues to grow, so too do the opportunities offered to small and diverse businesses and federal agencies have also realized significant benefits from GSA’s e-marketplace program. 

For small and diverse businesses, e-marketplaces offer opportunities to access the federal market without subjecting a company to the burden and expense of a direct contractual relationship with the government. Products sold by small and midsize sellers, for example, account for more than half of all sales in Amazon’s online stores.  And the e-marketplaces participating in the CPI are continually partnering with agencies to actively recruit small and diverse businesses to their platforms. 

For agencies, e-marketplaces offer access to a vibrant, competitive market of small businesses who might otherwise be excluded from the market.  These online marketplaces promote competition, expedite procurement, and ensure reasonable pricing by having multiple offerors for a given product.  The CPI’s advantages do not stop there.

  • E-marketplaces in the CPI allow government buyers to designate small and diverse businesses, green products, and mandatory sources (e.g., AbilityOne and UNICOR), as preferred, so offers from these concerns surface higher in search results. The platforms also preclude purchases of restricted items, as well as purchases from excluded vendors listed on SAM.gov.
  • Government buyers can utilize tailored features such as business-to-business and volume discounts, workflow approvals, exemptions from state taxes, and tools to document adequate competition.
  • Agencies enjoy increased visibility into online spend, enabling better buying decisions. GSA, for example, has developed online dashboards to provide agencies with an overview of their spend through the participating e-marketplaces.

Another often overlooked benefit is the ability to count purchases from small and diverse businesses through participating e-marketplaces toward the agency’s small and diverse prime contracting goals. Traditionally, purchases from e-marketplaces and other online retailers using government purchase cards were not included in the small business prime contracting calculation. To incentivize agency adoption of e-marketplaces, Section 846 of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which led to the CPI’s creation, ensures that such purchases count toward agency small business goals.  Section 846 states, in pertinent part, that “[a] procurement of a product made through a commercial e-commerce portal under the [CPI] is deemed to be an award of a prime contract for the purpose of the [SBA’s small business prime contracting goals], if the purchase is from a supplier that is a small business concern.”  

Online marketplaces are, without question, transforming public procurement. Long before the CPI, agencies understood that commercial e-marketplaces offer practical and efficient solutions to fulfilling the government’s critical procurement needs. The CPI adds to e-marketplace capabilities, features, and opportunities for small and diverse businesses.  In coming years, agencies will continue to realize its benefits, and the volume of purchases from small and diverse businesses will dramatically increase. As a result, agencies will strengthen the small business industrial base and attract new, commercial small businesses to the federal market.

Robert A. Burton is a partner in the Government Contracts Group at Crowell & Moring LLP in Washington, DC.  He is the former acting and deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Executive Office of the President.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.