Unisys expands e-commerce site for fed biz

Unisys Corp.'s Federal Systems Division has revamped its 2-year-old electronic commerce World Wide Web site known as Select IT so that federal buyers can access databases holding Unisys' governmentwide acquisition contracts.

Select IT, which will remain part of the revised site, has served government shoppers, especially those with credit cards, looking in the open market for quick delivery of off-the-shelf computer products.

The site is set to change its name to Unisys Federal Online (www.unisysfederalonline.com) June 29 and will begin offering government users access to databases that hold Unisys' General Services Administration information technology schedule products and the company's products on the Electronic Computer Store II indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract.

"We found that we had this great delivery method, but because it was only focused on the open market, we couldn't put GWACs and bring other contract information in," said Bill Jones, director of marketing for Unisys' Federal Systems Division.

The site will give buyers access to NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II contract starting in mid-July, Jones said.

Select IT provides access to more than 35,000 products sold by four major distributors: Ingram Micro Inc., Tech Data Corp., Merisel Inc. and Insight Enterprises Inc. With the addition of the contract offerings, the site will offer a selection of more than 50,000 products from about 12,000 name-brand manufacturers, Unisys officials said.

Customers will be able to choose from three types of searches to help them compare prices, said Dave Hylton, Web manager at Unisys' Federal Systems Division. A quick search will enable users to navigate easily to information about a product. A detailed search option will let users search by using a description of an item, the manufacturer, a part number or a price range. The third type of search scans a particular contract or the products on the GSA schedule.

Unisys Federal Online also will promise fast delivery and even faster response to queries. Products will arrive within 48 hours of the time the order is placed, and people who want to talk with a sales representative can enter their telephone number at the site and expect a call back within three to five seconds, Jones said.

On the site, customers will move their purchases into a "shopping cart," which looks like a spreadsheet. The shopping cart will tell government buyers the surcharge tacked on by the contract vehicle and the percentage of the buy that is open market. That is important information because, in some cases, the government allows a up to a certain percentage of a buy to come from the open market, Jones said.

The site, which uses Secure Socket Layer 128-bit encryption, will have a centralized return center where all products, no matter the manufacturer, can be returned.

Mark Amtower, president of Amtower and Co., praised the launch of Select IT two years ago, but he questioned folding it into a larger electronic site.

"If the site were already successful on its own, it would be silly to hide it somewhere else," Amtower said. "I don't know what the dollar value accumulated to, but if it had been significant, they would not be folding it into another site. I still think the concept was great. I'm assuming the execution wasn't good."

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