Insight by Overstock Government

Streamlining the federal buying process: Taking the e-marketplace from pilot to permanent

This content is sponsored by Overstock Government.

Just over a year ago, the General Services Administration launched the e-marketplace portal initiative, awarding three pilot contracts, including one to Overstock Government, to make it easier for agencies to buy through commercial platforms.

Back in June 2020, GSA said the goal of this initiative was to provide a modern buying platform for agencies and increase transparency on what some estimate is a $6 billion market.

The idea behind the program, which Congress passed as part of the 2018 Defense authorization bill and is known as Section 846, is to track spending under the micro-purchase threshold of $10,000, much of which was already going to commercial platforms through agency credit cards.

Now a year into the pilot, the e-marketplace portal initiative is starting to gain traction.

Jonathan Johnson, the CEO of Overstock, said the portal providers are making the buying process more transparent, easier and enabling agencies to meet their purchasing goals.

“It’s really trying to create efficiency in the purchasing process and in the post purchasing reporting that different agencies need to do. This is all about ease. It’s all about simplicity. And it’s all about trying to make any kind of red tape or bureaucracy that’s associated with the purchasing go away, or at the very least be simplified,” Johnson said on the discussion The New and Easy Federal Buying Experience sponsored by Overstock Government.

Johnson said the portals make finding products straightforward through refined search engines that let users find minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and other small businesses. Overstock Government also offers free shipping and free returns.

He said the e-marketplace initiative is starting to resonate with federal buyers because Overstock Government and others are taking advantage of the underlying technology that supports the platform to address any buying challenges of today and those that may come up in the future.

Johnson said the first year, pandemic and all, has gone well.

“It’s been a slower process than we expected. But that’s because people want to test it, they want to get signed up to use it. That’s all relatively easy to do, but it is a hurdle to get in there,” he said. “GSA went to Congress and asked for this initiative to be continued. My understanding is it’s up to 13 agencies now that are participating in the pilot. So it’s getting a broader look, which is good. So far, everything seems to be trending upward and this pilot is something that the government can and wants to make permanent, if it continues to go as it has this far. Our goal in this is to really improve the government purchasing experience, and make the pilot successful.”

Overstock Government has seen continued increases in buying through its portal, including a recent uptick in office furnishings and other office related supplies and needs.

One of the key success factors for the pilot is how agencies can obtain and use their buying data to improve their decision making process in the future.

Johnson said agencies can see their buying trends and use that data for better purchasing power, maybe through approaches like bulk purchases.

“Giving the data to the government is really one of the focuses of this pilot, and it’s done so in a private and secure way,” he said. “Anytime you’re on an online site, they’re gathering data. We keep that data private. We give it to the government, and it’s part of what the pilot program is. It really is meant to give government data so that it can become more efficient, in its purchasing going forward. And we think that’s happening.”

As for the future of the e-marketplace initiative, Johnson said Overstock Government will continue to ensure they are meeting the needs of federal buyers.

“The other, I think significant, evolution is our adding of product for Overstock Government that we didn’t sell on our consumer Overstock.com site. We’ve expanded beyond furniture and furnishings, we’ve got lots of office product, paper, cleaning supplies, different things, much expanded to meet the demands of the government, employee and government purchasing,” he said.

The New Federal Buying Platform

It's really trying to create efficiency in the purchasing process and in the post purchasing reporting that different agencies need to do. This is all about ease. It's all about simplicity. And it's all about trying to make any kind of red tape or bureaucracy that's associated with the purchasing go away, or at the very least be simplified.

The Federal Office of the Future

Giving the data to the government is really one of the focuses of this pilot, and it's done so in a private and secure way. Anytime you're on an online site, they're gathering data. We keep that data private. We give it to the government, and it's part of what the pilot program is. It really is meant to give government data so that it can become more efficient, in its purchasing going forward.

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Featured speakers

  • Jonathan Johnson

    CEO, Overstock

  • Jason Miller

    Executive Editor, Federal News Network

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