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What is the Unison Marketplace? A Complete Guide

What was originally founded in 1998, Unison Marketplace is a full-service online marketplace created to enhance how federal, state, and local governments and educational institutions purchase simple goods and services such as IT products, office supplies, and lab equipment. 

As of FY22, the marketplace services over 130,000 registered vendors, representing thousands of commercial, federal, state, and local government, and education sector buyers. Notable participants include the Department of Homeland Security, the Air Force, the Army, and Health and Human Services, among others. Interestingly, year over year, over 90% of contracts awarded through Marketplace go to certified small businesses.

 History of Unison Marketplace and FedBid

As mentioned above, Unison Marketplace was founded in 1998 as a division within Procurement Technologies by Phil Fuster and Luigi Canali. The idea for the concept originally came to Phil due to the frustration of bidding on a request for a quote (RFQ). The company failed to acquire sufficient funding and had to be relaunched in 2004 under the name FedBid.

Under the name FedBid, the company would grow at an impressive rate over the following years. Initially, the company was founded to only service federal government purchasing needs, but in 2013, FedBid expanded its reach to service state and local governments, education institutions, and commercial markets. 

In 2017, the company was acquired by Compusearch, and in 2019 Compusearch rebranded the company to Unsion Software, Inc. Compusearch. Then, it rolled all of its existing Compusearch Software Systems into FedBid and named the company Unison Global.

How Does the Unison Marketplace Work?

Unison Marketplace is a full-service, reverse auction marketplace for government contractors. The goal of the Unison Marketplace is to provide sellers with increased opportunities to bid on local, state, federal, education, and commercial business contracts in a way that maximizes administrative and sales efficiency. 

The traditional auction model that you’re probably familiar with is when a seller puts up an item, the buyers place bids until the close of the auction, at which time the item goes to the highest bidder. But with a reverse auction, like the Unison Marketplace, sellers bid for the prices at which they are willing to sell their goods and services.

Unison Marketplace Advantages

According to a study released by the Reverse Auction Research Center in 2010, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Bureau saved the agency roughly 10% annually over the preceding four years on over $500 million in purchases through Unison Marketplace. Additionally, more than 90% of the participating acquisition professionals gave the reverse auction marketplace process overall glowing reviews because of lower costs and a streamlined buying process.

Here is a bit more about the advantages of the Unison Marketplace for its buyers and sellers:

  1. Time and process efficiency: Unison Marketplace streamlines the procurement process by providing an online platform for auctions and other procurement activities. This can reduce the time traditionally associated with procurement, from soliciting bids to finalizing contracts. Unison is estimated to save government contractors four to eight hours of work per action in their portal. The online nature of the platform also minimizes paperwork and administrative burdens.
  2. Transparency and accountability: Through online auctions, stakeholders can observe and track bidding activities in real-time on the Marketplace. This transparency enhances accountability by ensuring that the procurement process is fair, open, and follows established regulations and policies.
  3. Electronic contracting and compliance: The platform is designed to help government agencies comply with procurement regulations and policies, providing a structured and compliant environment for everyone involved in the entire contracting lifecycle. This can contribute to smoother and more reliable contract management.

Understanding Unison Marketplace and Government Bids

On average, via this reverse auction model, the buyers can save roughly 11% on purchases. As sellers are bidding, they are unable to see other sellers’ bids. However, they are alerted if they are the leading bid — which within a reverse auction would be the lowest price. Buyers can select any or none of the bids offered and cancel or repost the auction at any time. If the transaction doesn’t save the buyer money, they are not obligated to make the purchase. 

How Much is the Unison Marketplace Fee?

Unison Marketplace will collect a small fee on top of the final contract price; typically, this results in a 3% fee but can vary depending on the specifics of the auction. The buyer of the transaction will carry the brunt of this cost. For example, if a contract is won at $10,000, the buyer’s actual price with the added 3% fee will be $10,300. Unison Marketplace is free for sellers to use. 

Get Expert Consultation on Using Unison Marketplace

FAMR is dedicated to assisting businesses in navigating the Federal marketplace. FAMR’s team of federal government contracting experts will advise how to best leverage Unison Marketplace as a seller. We will guide you through the process every step of the way and ensure you’re optimizing your federal government contracting opportunities

On top of that, with our marketing services, we can help your small business present itself in the best possible light to grow your organization’s government contracting opportunities. Ready to get started? Contact us online today!

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