The number of customers who don’t buy personal computers directly from PC makers will continuously increase over the next four years, forcing manufacturers to do a better job of customer segmentation and go-to-market strategies, research firm Gartner Inc. said on Tuesday.

The indirect channel accounted for 74.3% of worldwide PC shipments last year, compared with 66.6% in 2004, as emerging market expanded, Gartner said. The number is expected to reach 80% by 2012.

The direct sales are limited to enterprise, government and education customers as more consumers choose retail channels. Nontraditional PC retailers such as Wal-Mart in the U.S. and Carrefour in Asia/Pacific do a better job in PC sales.

The ongoing shift from direct sales comes as total PC sales fall amid the recession and reduced replacement rates in developed countries.

In the current economic climate, meeting the customer where they want to buy, with the products they are interested in, must receive the highest level of attention by PC manufacturers, said Tiffani Bova, Gartner vice president of research.

A one-size-fits-all product or channel strategy will not deliver the flexibility or responsiveness customers are looking for in today's market. “Building a robust and comprehensive GTM strategy is critical to the overall success of a PC manufacturer. said Bova.

Direct market resellers will be the fastest-growing indirect sales channel - although the market size will be relatively small at less than 5% of the total market by 2012. However, Gartner predicated it to continuously play a crucial role for PC makers, especially in the U.S.