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Allegro combines big-box feel, personal service

Allegro combines big-box feel, personal service

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. - When Allegro Medical first launched its online medical supply company 20 years ago, Amazon only sold books. Yahoo was a search directory. Google didn't exist.

The e-commerce marketplace has changed a great deal since then, but Allegro Medical remains a leading online reseller of medical supplies and home healthcare products.

Today, the company offers more than 60,000 products online, from catheters and syringes to dietary supplements and power wheelchairs. It served its 2 millionth customer in 2015.

Founder Craig Hood said starting an online company when e-commerce was in its infancy offered some critical advantages. Hood built the company's first website—a necessity at the time—but that inward focus has helped the company keep ahead of changes.

“One of our competitive advantages is understanding the technology,” he said. “We operate our own proprietary platform. We had the vision, but we also had the technological capabilities to execute that vision.”

Prior to starting Allegro, Hood worked as a caregiver and rehabilitation specialist to people recovering from traumatic brain injuries and strokes. It helped him understand the need for access to healthcare products that enhance people's mobility and quality of life. Early on, he saw a need for e-commerce in health care, but there were plenty of naysayers.

Allegro first held business meetings on a makeshift table constructed from filing cabinets. It had to contend with manufacturers who didn't want to drop ship products to consumers, so the staff met delivery drivers at the door with updated customer shipping labels.

Today, with a 140,000-square-foot facility and a trained, in-house customer service team, Allegro offers consumers a big-box shopping experience with personalized service that comes best from a smaller company.

More people are comfortable buying medical products online, so retailers are now focusing on how better to market to these customers and meet them where they are, such as on Facebook and other social media, Hood said.

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“If you look at the future, it's how are these things going to meld together?” he said. “It's seeing how customers want to be approached and making the transaction easier.” hme


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