Research Shows Consumer Goods Brands Use Tech to Drive Profits

How mass adoption of digital in B2B channels could drive both profitability and growth
November 4, 2021. 5 MIN READ
2020 may have been a black swan event, but it catapulted the consumer goods (CG) industry into the digital era. Many companies significantly accelerated digital investments to keep the value chain moving and get products into the hands of customers in the face of warehouse closures, logistics issues, and physical distancing. Now, it’s made a lasting impact on the B2B route to market. In the coming years, we'll see continued digital acceleration in every part of the route to market from account management to field execution. What's more, brands now can optimize the tech investments they made during the pandemic to drive profitable growth in a challenging economy.
Note: All statistics referenced in this article are from Consumer Goods and the Great B2B Digital Acceleration.
This was a historic moment for the CG industry, an industry once slow to adopt anything digital. To understand both the seismic changes and what may lie ahead, Salesforce conducted a survey of 500 CG leaders — defined as C-level, vice president, senior vice president, executive vice president, or equivalent — across eight countries and four continents. Here are the top three findings from the report:

How are CG brands optimizing their tech to boost revenue and drive profits?

Discover what 500 CG leaders have to say about the state of digital maturity, B2B channels, and what’s next.

Stop-gap digital investments drive industry-wide maturity

Ninety-nine percent of CG companies accelerated digital transformation in the B2B route to market. What was even more astounding was the pace at which it all happened. In just a handful of months, 43% of CG leaders expedited digital investments that were once scheduled as far out as two to five years. They prioritized investments in:

  • Account management
  • Retail and field execution
  • B2B digital commerce

The impact of these investments on the bottom line speaks for itself. Most CG companies reported that the B2B route-to-market investments they made impacted 11%–50% of their total company revenue.

CG companies that rethink their trade spend strategy are in an even stronger position to grow margins. After all, trade spend is a huge piece of the budget pie — in fact, it’s second only to cost of goods sold on the P&L. But according to Deloitte, 60% of promotions go unevaluated thanks to a lack of analytical firepower. Digitizing trade spend management gives CG companies the insights they need to understand what works and what doesn't. That’s important, because 40% of CG companies that increased trade spend by 10% saw more than a 25% increase in sales growth. (On the flip side, 20% of those that cut back on investing by as little as 5% saw a significant sales decline of 20%.)

Over the next few years, we predict that CG companies will continue to invest in refining the B2B route-to-market strategy with digital technologies and look to consolidate disparate systems to build a 360-degree view of the customer. On average, CG companies that do so can achieve a 45% increase in marketing ROI, and a 42% decrease in costs to acquire new customers. Breaking down silos will also allow CG companies to minimize the effects of future black swan events.

Virtual account management and field execution are here to stay

CG leaders realize that virtual engagement in account management and field execution is not just a short-term solution for physical distancing. It has shown proven business impact.

Digitization in account management enables sales reps to maintain relationships with key accounts and increase collaboration with customers, which drives growth. Consider that 73% of CG leaders who said their company implemented telesales prior to the pandemic saw 25% growth. Those that invested in digital customer service channels like chatbots and mobile also saw big returns. This signals that companies that embraced digital and enabled a true omni-channel customer experience were better positioned — and saw less disruption — in their core business.

When it comes to field execution, digitizing merchandising activities and trade marketing ensures compliance while streamlining the entire process. Field reps still made in-store visits at the height of the pandemic — albeit limited visits under tight restrictions — but those that adopted digital tools now want more capabilities, like real-time shelf monitoring, the Internet of Things (IoT) for merchandising audits, and object and facial detection to support routine audits and planogram compliance. In fact, 44% of CG leaders are looking to adopt more remote-based retail and field execution technologies in the next three to five years.
CG companies benefit from the speed and cost efficiencies that come with virtual field execution solutions. For example, instead of a field rep spending hours at the store going through paper notes, they have a full task list on their phone with automation guiding them through every step of the process. Suddenly that audit, once based on live conversations on site, shifts to a mutual strategy session in which the brand rep helps the buyer meet their goals rather than just pushing targets.

Investments in B2B digital commerce helps CG companies expand relationships

While the rapid adoption of B2C commerce in CG made headlines, there was a turning point for B2B digital commerce as well. CG companies that set up B2B digital commerce capabilities during the pandemic enabled the vast ecosystem of manufacturers, distributors, and large retailers to browse products, receive quotes, and make large purchases online.

In fact, 80% of all B2B organizations are moving or have moved to digital commerce. Looking closer at the data, nearly half (48%) implemented self-service B2B digital commerce solutions in 2020.


B2B digital commerce solutions help CG companies build stronger relationships with customers, whether they are large-scale retailers or mom and pop shops. Customers log in to a B2B storefront through an authenticated portal to review products, place routine orders, get recommendations for other products based on store-specific demographics, split payments, and more. CG companies can also bring a personalized B2C-like experience to their B2B buyers through the site, resulting in higher brand affinity with some seeing a 52% increase in customer engagement. This prompts repeat sales, increases sales efficiency, and drives profitable growth.

Digital marketing targeted to B2B customers is also on the rise. Eighty-three percent of companies that grew revenue at least 5% increased their digital marketing spend.


B2B digital acceleration transforms the route-to-market strategy

The mass adoption of digital technology in the B2B route to market has transformed the playing field — and it will only continue to evolve. As CG leaders look at what’s on the horizon, they have an incredible opportunity to deliver additional growth across the route to market.

To learn more about the trends impacting the B2B processes CG brands are employing to achieve success now, read the full report.


About the Author

Sunil Rao is a vice president and general manager for Consumer Goods at Salesforce. He is focused on helping companies become more autonomous, intelligent, and connected.
Sunil Rao

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