60 Seconds with Chris Barnard, president of Points.com

60 Seconds with Chris Barnard, president of Points.com

Points.com launched the Global Points Exchange (GPX) program on Dec. 17, 2007. The program allows members of different loyalty programs to trade their miles and points with other GPX users. We recently spoke with Chris Barnard, president of Points.com.

InsideFlyer
Points.com GPX will soon be one year old. How is the program coming along?
Chris Barnard
It’s coming along fantastically. We’ve had extremely positive industry feedback and we’ve had some engaged members on the site trying it out in beta stage. All of the data we’ve been collecting and the feedback we’ve received has been positive.

IF
What kind of difficulties have you faced?
Barnard
I wouldn’t say we’ve had any difficulties. It’s a brand new platform that offers a new proposition to the frequent flyer program and loyalty industry in general. Really, it’s just a matter of making sure the proposition is sound from the backend technology and I think we’ve seen extremely good performance of the platform. Then it’s much more of a communication exercise to let members of these programs know that this functionality exists and they can now use GPX to get extra value from their frequent flyer miles, and now hotel points, with the introduction of InterContinental.

IF
How has the feedback been?
Barnard
It’s been very positive. We’ve done a number of research studies and surveys along the way and 98 percent of satisfied customers is a fantastic metric we can rely on to determine the value of the service. The average trade is over 9,000 miles or points and because one side is trading away and one side is receiving, there’s real value being transacted.

IF
How many trades have taken place and how many trades do you manage per day?
Barnard
We’ve traded millions of miles through the platform. An interesting statistic on the trade data is that it’s averaging about one mile for one mile. The exchange rate so to speak is pretty close to 1:1, it’s currently 1:.94, which shows consumers are really spending some time valuing their miles and points before conducting their trades. Over 87 percent of people who have done a trade said they would now be more loyal to the program they received miles in. And 75 percent said they would definitely plan on earning more miles in the program that they traded out of. People are more loyal when they get more miles and they’re more engaged in a program if they can use more miles.

IF
You now have seven programs participating. Do you plan on adding more?
Barnard
We have announced that TACA will be joining as well as Harrah’s Total Rewards program. And you’ll see a couple of new ones probably before the end of the year. We are in discussions with many programs and have received good feedback from some international carriers as well. We think that’s the power of the platform–to be able to bring on any loyalty currency independent of geography.

IF
Do you have any tips for GPX users?
Barnard
One tip is to check back later. Because it is a peer-to-peer marketplace there are always new things you might not be able to find at first. If you don’t see a trade up there that appeals to you at that instant, you can post any offer and wait for someone to come and accept the trade. It’s much more of an interactive site in that if you don’t see what you want on the site at the time, you have the option to post an offer and wait for someone to accept it. We’re also working on upgrading functionality and adding email alerts, highlights and other new functions.

IF
Have you noticed a difference in activity that might be related to the economy?
Barnard
Across our business and not just with GPX, we’ve noticed people are becoming more and more interested in miles and points because they are finding increased value in using those loyalty currencies. They are using miles and points either because travel is becoming more expensive or they are trying to cut back on other expenses and see that as a way to pay for something without dipping into the bank account.

IF
Looking back, what’s one thing that you’ve learned that you didn’t expect?
Barnard
We were wondering how long it would take for the trading ratio to settle at 1:1. When you’re trading some big brands against some small brands, you would think that in some cases people would be overvaluing one currency over another, but it seems that trading settled in very quickly at a 1:1 relationship.

IF
The GPX tab on your Web site says “beta.” Are you planning on adding any enhancements to the program in the next stage?
Barnard
We have plans to add more member and user functionality in terms of being able to track recent transactions and see the offers you have out there–email alerts about trades you have pending and maybe completed–and trades you might be interested in based on other things you’ve shown interest in. Those kinds of additions are definitely planned in the coming releases.

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