Channel Partners Expected to Dominate PC Sales Through 2012

Gartner forecasts continued increase in personal computer product sales through indirect channels.

Nearly 80 percent of computer products built for home users and small to mid-sized business customers worldwide will flow through channel partners by 2012, according to a new forecast from researcher Gartner Group Inc.

Gartner figures that in the next three years buying preferences will push sales through indirect channels up from the current rate of 74 percent based in part on growth of the direct marketing and telecom retail segments. Sales of PC products through the channel have run up nearly 10 percent worldwide since 2004, the researcher said.

A Gartner analyst said that the slowdown in sales of personal computer equipment has heightened the importance for vendors to craft finely tuned go-to-market strategies.

“With predictions of an unprecedented PC market slowdown in 2009, how PC manufacturers keep demand and brand loyalty high will come down to the attention spent on [go-to-market] and account coverage initiatives,” said Tiffany Bova, Gartner research vice president. “Shoring up partnerships with channel companies and distributors has the ability to provide tremendous competitive advantage.”

Bova said that despite the preference of enterprise companies, government agencies, educational institution and some professional organizations to work with manufacturers’ direct sales teams, “strong consumer and small office/home office market growth will lead to consistent growth for the retail channel.”

She pointed to an expected larger role for telecom retailers as a mobile PC channel, particularly for mini-notebook computers packaged with remote access capabilities and sold in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

Gartner’s research identified direct market resellers as the fastest growing of the indirect channels. The researcher predicted that even though direct marketers will comprise less than five percent of the worldwide channel market by 2012, the segment will still play a critical role in PC vendors’ sales strategies, principally in the U.S.

Gartner said that anticipated growth in the retail channel is based on the preference among home and small office/home office customers to purchase from retailers because it allows them to consider multiple brands and assess features, functionality and price all in one location. Customers in these segments not purchasing through retailers are most likely to turn to a manufacturer’s direct sales outlet, the researcher said.

Small and mid-sized business customers rely on a combination of direct and indirect channels to buy computer equipment, Gartner said. The researcher’s data indicated that the smaller the company the more likely it is to purchase from indirect channels such as VARs and direct marketers.

Bova noted that especially in the current economy, manufacturers must be particularly aware of customer buying habits and preferences.

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

TAGS: consumer,IT,marketing,PC sales,channel partners

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