With more than 20 years’ in the property industry, Mirvac Commercial Property director of customer experience, Nicole Imberger has a growing passion for creating places that foster human connections.

She believes the future of retail lies in transforming the way the industry works to be more agile, responsive, and accessible in an ever-changing consumer landscape.  

Imberger speaks to Retailbiz about her career highlights, the collaborative and diverse work culture at Mirvac and creating tailored retail experiences for local and emerging brands.

RB: Can you share an overview of your career and any highlights?

NI: Just out of university, I was fortunate to work on the first phase development of Universal City Walk in Los Angeles, an experiential, mixed-use project incorporating entertainment, retail, and hospitality. I continued to seek out opportunities in this space, including the creation of the Fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas and the Brigades Fire Show at Crown Casino in Melbourne. These first projects led to my career-long passion for creating experiential places and a deep curiosity about the intersection of people, technology, and culture.

As my career progressed, I became fascinated with customer-centred design thinking, co-leading the Smart Space practice at IDEO in San Francisco working with place-based businesses to innovate their experiences and maximise opportunities with consumers. I have since leveraged these learnings to help innovate and future-proof the retail property industry, both in Australia and globally.

In my current role, I lead a diverse, dynamic, and multi-disciplinary team, focused on how we engage partners, customers and our communities to activate our assets and deliver exceptional experiences across both physical and digital channels. With an appetite for research, consumer data, and global trends, curiosity is at the heart of every decision we make.

RB: Why did you choose to join the Mirvac team?

NI: My career in property has centred on future trends and how we curate meaningful experiences that provide real value for our urban communities. With so much legacy in the industry, adapting to a rapidly changing environment can be a challenging task.

To pursue this passion, I recognised a need to be part of an inspiring team with a culture of innovation, curiosity and new thinking. Mirvac has an industry-leading reputation for encouraging diversity of thought and designing for the future. Through its award-winning innovation Hatch program, it has trained employees to problem-solve creatively, leading to an inspiring vision for the future of retail, centred on experiential design and creative solutions.

After meeting Mirvac CEO Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz and other influential female leaders in the business, including Kelly Miller, Mirvac general manager of retail, I was impressed by their success and energised to join the team. I am surrounded by a group of dynamic, forward-thinking women who I can learn from and who challenge me to think differently. Mirvac has created a culture of collaboration, respect, and creativity, where we work as a team and inspire each other to push the boundaries.  

RB: How has this culture of diversity and innovation led to better retail experiences for tenants and customers?

NI: Mirvac’s retail portfolio focuses on urban centres, that are welcoming of their diverse, local communities. What I love about the portfolio is we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach and each centre is tailored to the community it serves. A great example of this is how we curate the retail mix, providing an opportunity for unique, local retailers and emerging brands to stand side-by-side with well-known international operators. This gives local retailers a platform to showcase their products and provides a point of difference for our centres.

I believe a bespoke approach to retail design and a tailored, localised retail mix is the future of our industry. There are major forces impacting the sector, like the rise of e-commerce, and we are embracing these and adapting our approach. Mirvac has given me unique opportunities to explore this through initiatives such as WeMake and WeShow, that create new opportunities for progressive brands to access physical spaces and make shopping centres immersive and exciting for customers.

I am proud we are able to bring integrated, experiential programs to life in our centres that celebrate diversity and genuinely engage with our communities. For example, our current Welcome Here Mardi Gras activation creates a visibly welcoming and inclusive environment, while encouraging conversations on diversity and inclusion among tenant partners and visitors.

At the height of Covid-19, we supported our customers and tenants through Essentials Express, allowing online ordering, drive through pick up, and same day delivery for essentials. The pandemic has given us insight into our ability to innovate through true collaboration and creative problem solving. I am confident we are well positioned to reimagine the future of retail.