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While working in your store’s Admin Area, you may have noticed an Import/Export tool in the Inventory drop-down menu. If you’ve ever wondered what that tool can be used for – or, if you’ve tried working with the tool, but weren’t able to make much sense of it – this guide is for you! Volusion’s Import/Export capabilities are extremely powerful, and they can save a lot of time when you need to make bulk changes to your store.

Basic Principles

So what’s this tool all about, and how will it be of benefit to you? Chances are that you’ll use the Import tool at least once for creating or editing a large number of records at once, such as a batch of new products, categories, product options, or even coupons. You can use the Export tool to save and view a large number of records, too. For either process, you’ll be able to analyze and modify data by using a spreadsheet editing program like Microsoft Excel.

Note that there’s a specific type of spreadsheet file you should use when importing or exporting data. This file type is called a “CSV” file, and it stands for “comma separated values”. When you export a specific table from your store (for example, your Products table or your Category table), you’ll see the option to export it as a CSV file. Always choose this option, particularly if you plan to filter or otherwise manipulate the data in a program like Excel.

You can think of these spreadsheets as more easily editable versions of the tables in your Admin Area – so if you download a CSV file of your products, the spreadsheet will contain column headings that match the values in your Admin Area (Product Code, Name, Price, Weight, Sale Price, etc.), while each row will correspond to a different product record. If a specific cell on the spreadsheet – which corresponds to a specific field in the Admin Area – has multiple values (for example, if a product belongs to more than one category), those values will be separated by commas within the same spreadsheet cell. Thus the “comma separated values”, or CSV, file type!

If you’re the type who likes to dive into the technical details, we recommend getting started with our Import/Export knowledge base article. And if you’re more of a visual learner, you can also check out our video series on how to prepare and interpret spreadsheets in conjunction with the Import/Export tool.

Harness the Power of Bulk Changes

If you want to create a large number of new records by importing them from a spreadsheet, the first step is to export the corresponding table from your Admin Area. That way, your column headings will already be formatted to correspond to specific fields in the Admin Area, and you’ll be able to see how the system stores certain values.

Creating New Records

As an example, let’s say you want to create several new categories at once. Make sure you have at least one manually-created category in your store for reference, so that your CSV file will contain at least one example record. Go to Inventory > Import/Export and select the Standard Export tab. Use the Export From drop-down menu to select the table you want to view records for – “Categories”, for example. Next to each table name, you’ll see a number in parentheses that indicates the amount of records currently in that table. Once you’ve chosen the table you want to export, use the check boxes to select all the fields you’d like to export data for. Each of these fields will be formatted as a separate column on the spreadsheet, with corresponding values for each table record / spreadsheet row (in this case, each category in your store). From the File Format drop-down menu, select “CSV – Comma Delimited Text File”, then click Export! As soon as your file has been prepared, you’ll be redirected to a page with a message that says “Your export file is available for download”. Click Download to open the file on your computer, and you’ll see a perfectly formatted CSV file that you can use as a template for additional table records (Categories).

Hint: If you think you’ll be exporting this same table with the same columns selected on a regular basis, you can select Save this export for future use before you generate the file.

Editing Records in Bulk

The Export tool is also helpful when you want to make a single change to several records in bulk. For example, say you need to update the price on a large number of products. Instead of going into each product individually, you can export your Products table – making sure the appropriate columns are selected – then modify the appropriate column values in bulk and re-import the table into your Admin Area. For this example, you’d want to make sure that the “ProductCode” and “ProductPrice” columns are selected (note that “ProductCode” is a required column for importing records, as it’s the unique identifier for products within the Admin Area). Once you’ve exported the Products table and edited any prices you need to, be sure to save the file as a CSV again. You can import those records back into your store by going to Inventory > Import/Export > Standard Import. From the Import To drop-down menu, select “Products”, then select Yes, replace any existing data with my new updated data. Once your CSV file has been imported, the product records you updated will reflect the new prices per your modifications.

As you can tell, this method is far more speedy and efficient than editing each product page one-by-one in your Admin Area. Note that whenever you’re importing new product or category records, it’s a good practice to go to Settings > Maintenance and rebuild your store’s search index. This ensures that all changes are immediately up-to-date on your storefront.

Migrating Data

Migrating your store to Volusion from a different platform can be a daunting task; fortunately, the Import/Export tool can speed up and simplify the process of transferring data. The primary hurdle with this process is translating the field (or column) names that your old platform uses, then converting them to the corresponding field or column names that Volusion uses. On a CSV file import, the column name is what helps our system identify which field to stick a value in. Most platforms use different (but often similar) column names behind the scenes, so you’ll need to adjust the CSV file from your previous platform to match the column names that Volusion uses in order to import successfully.

You can view a comprehensive list of Volusion column names and their equivalent fields in the Admin Area here. If you have any trouble determining which Volusion column corresponds with a field from your old platform, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Support team for a second opinion!

Know Your Own Strength

Keep in mind that with a tool this powerful, it’s possible to make changes that can cause a store-wide error. If you accidentally import an improperly formatted CSV file, there isn’t an “undo” button in your store. For this reason, we highly recommend saving a backup CSV file for the table you’re editing. That way, if you accidentally import a CSV file with errors, you can import the backup version in order to revert your changes. To create a backup of a CSV file you’ve exported, just make a copy of the file on your desktop and rename it with the word “backup” in the file name.

Common Errors

The most common export issues typically occur when exporting the Products table; specifically, the CategoryIDs and OptionIDs columns may be altered when opening your CSV file in Excel. These two fields are stored in our system as 3-digit IDs separated by commas, but Excel sometimes adds its own formatting. If you try to import a CSV file (unaware that Excel has altered the original values), the Volusion software can’t recognize any category or option IDs that match those in the file. This is not considered a critical error in a CSV file, so the Volusion system still imports your table. This is problematic because it can result in products that are no longer attached to any categories or option IDs.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to prevent this from happening! To ensure that Excel doesn’t add unwanted formatting, you can use a specific method to open the CSV file. For more information, check out our knowledge base article on opening CSV files with Excel.

The most common import issue also occurs within the Products table CSV file; specifically, your CSV file doesn’t offer any safeguards to prevent you from adding unaccepted characters to product codes. When you manually create a product in your Admin Area, the system prevents you from using anything other than letters, numbers, hyphens, dashes, and periods. Microsoft Excel doesn’t provide any such warnings, nor does the Import tool in your Admin Area. If you accidentally import product codes that include anything other than the characters listed above, you may run into a wide variety of issues when viewing the product, attempting to add the product to the shopping cart, or adding product images later on. The moral of the story? When importing new products, make sure your product codes meet all the requirements!

Ready to Get Started?

The Import/Export tool is an extremely powerful one. Without a bit of background, it can seem overwhelming at first! While this primer explained some of the most common uses and pitfalls, there’s always more to learn. If you have questions, concerns, or want someone to look over your CSV file before importing, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Support team. We’re happy to help!