Big, traditional retailers like Hudson’s Bay Co. have to be more directly engaged with consumers if they hope to compete in an increasingly crowded retail space, according the chief operating officer of Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify Inc.

“I think for a lot of these big retailers, for decades their entire profit margin was based on the fact that they had distribution. They had physical locations in different cities. That is no longer enough,” Harley Finkelstein said Monday in an interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman, adding that retail distribution has become more democratized both online and offline.

“If I’m going into a big retailer and I ask about a product and the sales person there kind of gives me a blank stare and says, ‘I don’t really know much about the product, I’m just a sales person,’ that is not a great experience,” he said.

Finkelstein added that Shopify data shows big retailers may be losing their lustre among Canadian consumers, who are flocking instead to direct-to-consumer brands.

“What’s happening is Canadians in particular are voting with their wallets right now to buy from independent brands as opposed to department stores,” he said.

But all hope may not be lost for big retailers, Finkelstein said. They just have to be more attuned to consumer expectations.

“If it’s going to be a commoditized product and a commoditized experience, consumers are not going to be happy, they’re not going to return to that shop ever again.”