The surfers are hooked

Roger Trapp looks at a web firm on `Silicon Beach' that turns browsers into buyers

One great frustration for firms that have leapt into a brave new world and set about mar-keting themselves online is their inability to convert visitors to their web sites into customers. But help's at hand. With the rallying cry "turn browsers into buyers", the British start- up business RealCall claims it has developed the means of transforming "passive websites into active sales lead generators".

Though only two-and-a-half years old and in the midst of raising its second tranche of finance, the company has already picked up such clients as Barclays Bank, Legal & General, PowerGen, KPMG and even the online service provider CompuServe. Interest is mounting around the world and a business that until recently was based in a loft of a private house on the south coast is planning to open offices in Germany and the United States shortly.

The idea behind the service is very simple, insists Eric van der Kleij, RealCall's co-founder and chief operating officer. Essentially, a "button" creates a link between the internet and telecommunications and is provided free to a website owner, which then pays upfront for a certain amount of use - rather like a phonecard user.

The service, which is applicable to digital television as well as the internet, works by means of four simple steps. First, the web user wanting to respond to a company presses the button on a we site or online advertisement. Then, the RealCall technology processes the request and carries out security checks before sending the advertiser an automated call with the user's name and telephone number. Finally, the idea is, the advertiser calls the user back.

The benefit to the company is that visitors to the website - whether customers looking to buy products or people just generally seeking information - have a means of obtaining feedback. As Mr van der Kleij says, "it puts the human touch back" by demonstrating firms are willing to talk to their customers.

But with orders for the buttons already in their millions, Mr van der Kleij also admits that he cannot anticipate how every customer will use the service. KPMG, for example, had surprised him by using it for graduate recruitment purposes. Would-be job candidates take part in a psychological assessment test and, if they pass, can use the button to leave their contact details.

Many of the organisations that have so far taken up the service - which charges call-backs at a fixed rate of 35p each - are, understandably, large. But Mr van der Kleij sees opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, too. RealCall has, for example, linked up with Livetown Online Media to enable businesses in Glasgow to obtain business directly from the internet even if they do not own a computer. Mr van der Kleij says it "connects the internet to the `internotyets'".

With more than 60 per cent of online web visitors now reckoned to be failing to complete online order forms, there is clearly potential for this sort of service. And RealCall claims that while others may want a piece of the action, doing so will be difficult. Not only is RealCall convinced it has protected its intellectual property, it says that behind the simple idea is a "great deal of back-office infrastructure". Getting to this point has clearly taken a good deal of effort, as well as cash. While the bright idea originated with himself and co-founder Martyn Walker, Mr van der Kleij is quick to point to others' roles.

In particular, RealCall is notable for being one of the highest-flying examples of what is becoming known as the "Silicon Beach" phenomenon.

While RealCall now has an office in west London, it is still based on the south coast, where Sussex Enterprise is helping the area around Brighton to shake off its reputation as a somewhat decaying home for pensioners in favour of an image as a thriving centre for entrepreneurial talent.

Tony Sheehan, executive director of Wired Sussex - which began as an independent group formed by local authorities and business people before joining the larger enterprise body earlier this year - says that with about 350 registered companies operating in multimedia and related fields, the area has one of the world's most significant industrial "clusters".

RealCall is one of three or four that so far have developed a global presence, but Mr Sheehan is confident many others will follow.

Just as with the rather better- known biotech and hi-tech cluster around Cambridge, Brighton offers a pool of talent - partly filled by the local university - and the networking opportunities that develop when similar businesses are drawn together.

RealCall puts such a value on the help the community has given that it recently sponsored an event at Gatwick airport that gave firms like itself the chance to meet would-be investors. His most important advice to start-ups looking for venture capital? Start your presentation with the words "We make money by ..."

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

**Financial Services Tax**

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit