Consumer Goods and the Great B2B Digital Acceleration

What 500 consumer goods leaders have to say about digital transformation in the B2B route to market.


When the world came to a halt in 2020, a massive wave of digital adoption allowed consumer goods (CG) companies to merchandise and sell products directly to consumers as they flocked online to purchase the essential goods they needed. But digital adoption in the consumer goods industry didn’t just impact the business-to-consumer (B2C) space — it also affected the vast business-to-business (B2B) ecosystem of manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers that work together to get essential goods to your local storefronts.

Organizations acted quickly to adapt to these new market conditions. In our survey of the industry, nearly all (99%) CG companies accelerated digital transformation in their B2B route to market.


99% of CG companies accelerated digital transformation in the B2B route to market.

The digitization of the B2B ecosystem was incredibly widespread. To understand the seismic changes and what’s ahead, Salesforce conducted a double-blind survey in May 2021 that generated 500 responses from CG leaders across eight countries and four continents. Findings reveal the following:
While there are many ways that CG companies get products to end consumers, this report focuses specifically on the B2B processes and activities that enable CG companies to sell and distribute products to partners and distributors, including:
  • Telesales and digital customer service
  • Trade promotion management
  • Opportunity and account management
  • Marketing resource management
  • Joint business planning
  • Engagement planning
  • Cross-channel service and support
  • Self-service digital commerce
  • B2B marketing
  • Partner loyalty management

Respondent profiles

Respondents are third-party panelists (not limited to Salesforce customers). Throughout this report, we classify respondents as CG leaders, defined as those that are C-level; vice presidents, senior vice presidents, executive vice presidents, or equivalent; and director-level or equivalent.

Chapter 1: Digital acceleration drives industry-wide B2B maturity

CG companies supercharged their digital technology investments in 2020 to address market dynamics that changed on a daily basis. As if it was a matter of survival, acceleration of B2B route to market was an industry-wide event, with 99% of all CG companies undertaking efforts to modernize. Forty-two percent of CG leaders expedited digital projects that were already on tap within the year, while 43% expedited digital investments that were scheduled as far as 2–5 years out.

How many years of B2B digital transformation did you accelerate in 2020?

The majority of CG leaders (86%) overwhelmingly agree that they would have been less successful in 2020 without digital investments across functions like account management, retail and field execution, and B2B digital commerce. The impact on the revenue base from these investments varied for many companies. Most CG companies reported that the B2B route to market investments they made impacted 11%–50% of their total company revenue.

Respondents say that without the digital investments made in 2020, they would have been less successful during the pandemic.

What impact did digital transformation have in 2020?


Chapter 2: Digital investments streamline account management

Discover the top three investments for CG companies to build and maintain B2B customer relationships.

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