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Case Studies







Case Study: How Swanky Helped Meal Subscription Brand HelloFresh Start Selling Online in Japan

Swanky’s ecommerce experts helped meal-kit subscription service HelloFresh launch into Japan, their first Asian market. Here’s the story of how we created an exciting Japanese store for the world’s leading meal-kit company!

Written By
Han Dickson

About HelloFresh

Founded in Berlin, Germany in 2011, HelloFresh hand-delivered to their first 10 customers. Today, they serve 1 billion meals each year across 17 countries, including Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

Focusing on convenience and quality, HelloFresh meal-kits are delivered direct to customers’ doors with all the required ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes, so there’s no need to go shopping or plan a menu. They also provide a flexible subscription service with no annual fee or contract length, allowing customers to skip or cancel deliveries at any time to suit a variety of lifestyles.

Previously, all HelloFresh sites have been built on their own custom, white-label platform. However, with in-house resources stretched due to rapid growth, the company turned to Swanky to keep up with their ambitious international expansion plans. 

Selling online in Japan – a fresh new market

Following a strong first half of 2021, where demand soared and sales rose by almost 80%, HelloFresh announced its plans to launch into Japan, its first Asian market, by the end of the year.

“During Q2 2021 we have made further strong progress in ramping up our production capacity and infrastructure globally,” said Dominik Richter, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of HelloFresh.1

Despite the unique set of challenges for international retailers selling online in Japan, including language complexities, cultural sensibilities and complex regulations, it’s an exciting ecommerce market offering significant potential.

Japan is the world’s fourth largest ecommerce market with widespread internet penetration and highly developed distribution networks, yet still promises plenty of opportunity for growth, as online retail only accounts for approximately 12% of total retail sales in the country.2

What’s more, Japan offers international brands a valuable opportunity to reach a highly concentrated segment of digitally-native urban consumers with an appetite for new trends.

The need for reliable and convenient home delivery services is growing in the country – speaking directly to HelloFresh and its direct-to-your-door meal-kits. Growth of the food delivery market in particular accelerated by around 50% in 2020 due to COVID-related stay-at-home orders, with revenue in the online food delivery segment projected to reach £4,360m in 2022.3

The international subscription agency for the job

With a Japanese store on their horizons, HelloFresh began searching for an agency that could complete this complex recurring subscription management project whilst simultaneously balancing Japanese language and design considerations. Interested in the possibilities of the Shopify platform, they got in touch with Swanky.

With our APAC office and our team’s experience in D2C subscription ecommerce, we knew we could help with the complex subscription functionality and have sufficient time zone overlap within the business to complete the necessary Japanese imagery, copy, and contextual requirements.

The goal was not to replicate the exact functionality of their other stores which had been built on their custom in-house platform, but to create a minimum viable product (MVP) on Shopify.

This was a project to give HelloFresh the ability to expedite their plans for growth by six months to a year, before handing back to their in-house team to continue the build.

How Swanky helped

Through a process of discovery, wire-framing, user-journey mapping and consulting different members of the HelloFresh team on design, marketing, and fulfilment operations, we were able to decipher what constituted that MVP scope and identify aspects which could improve upon their existing platform.

Our Shopify Plus experts recreated a large portion of HelloFresh’s white-label platform, built upon years of investment and optimisation, and developed this into a one-of-a-kind store – in just 20 weeks. 

The Swanky team designed and built a unique storefront for the Japanese market, complete with:

> A bespoke subscription app that sits primarily between Shopify and Recharge. This custom app augments functionalities from both platforms that weren’t natively possible, enabling a default meal setting relevant to customers’ sign-up preferences and providing them with the ability to queue their next HelloFresh box. The app interfaces with Klaviyo, which HelloFresh uses for their CRM, allowing for additional user notifications to remind customers to select their meals, as well as Yotpo, which handles HelloFresh’s significant user loyalty and referral program.

> Three different navigation menus dependent on a user’s state – one each for new customers, active subscribers and customers who were once subscribed but have since cancelled – providing a relevant shopping experience for all.

> A complex custom discount, referrals and retention strategy.

> Country-specific cultural considerations (including use of logography and text wrapping).

“I don’t think it’s an understatement to say there are very few teams in the world that could have done what we have done.” 

– Ben Homer, Head of Client Services at Swanky

Launch your business internationally with Swanky

Looking to start selling online in Japan? Perhaps you’re eager to expand your ecommerce business into a different country?

If you’re feeling inspired by HelloFresh’s venture into a new market and want to know more about how to scale your brand by selling internationally on Shopify Plus, then check out our free internationalisation ebook for plenty of expert advice and real-life case studies.

You can also get in touch with one of our friendly ecommerce experts.


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