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Import contacts from a file

Contacts can be added to your account individually, but if you want to add a number of contacts at the same time it's easiest to import them as a file. Accepted file formats include:

  • .xls
  • .xlsx
  • .csv

You can import up to 65,000 contacts in a .xls or .xlsx file. For more, use the .csv file format.

Rented or purchased lists are not allowed. By importing contacts to your account, you are asserting that you have permission to email them.

You must have proof that everyone on the list has either opted in to receive emails from you, or that they have a clear relationship with your organization, for example, as a customer, employee, or volunteer. Additionally, you need to have emailed these contacts within the last 18 months to retain permission.

Before you start

Here's some useful information about importing lists:

  • Spreadsheet settings — Spreadsheets containing multiple sheets cannot be processed. Make sure the file you're importing only has one sheet.
  • Format data correctly — If you're importing data to contact fields, be aware that some field types require the data to be formatted correctly for a successful import.
  • Duplicate email addresses — If your file contains duplicate email addresses, they will be deduplicated during the import process. For example, if is listed twice in your spreadsheet, first as Bill Smith and further down the spreadsheet as William Smith, data from the last row imported is what will be used. So, in this case, the name saved for the contact would be William Smith.
  • Invalid email addresses — If your file contains improperly formatted email addresses, those contacts will be moved to an "Error" tab on your "Contacts" page so you can correct the formatting, then change the contact's status to Active.
  • Contact total after import — If the number of contacts in your audience doesn't increase by the number of new contacts imported, this indicates that the file may have contained duplicate email addresses. This will be noted in the import summary.
  • New contact fields for number values — If you're importing number values, for example, ages, phones numbers or membership IDs, do not choose the "Numeric answer" field type when creating a new contact field. Learn more.

Import a file

To import new contacts, or contact data, from a file:

  1. Open the Audience section in your account, then click Imports on the left.
  2. Click Import contacts.
  3. Upload your file by dragging it across from your desktop, or clicking Choose file to select it from your computer.
  4. Optional: Choose the source of your import, how you'd like to handle data being imported for existing contacts, or select the checkbox to trigger workflows based on the data imported.
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions to map the contact data in your list to the contact fields in your account. You can also create new contact fields for the data you're importing.
  7. Either create a new group to add your contacts to, or select an existing group, then click Continue.
  8. After you've reviewed the import summary page, click Import.

Import speed is dependent on the size of the file, and the import options selected.

Import summary

When you import a file, we generate an import summary that shows how many contacts were added, updated, skipped due to duplication or error, and which groups were added to.

After an import has been completed, navigate to the Audience > Imports page, then click on the name of the file to view the summary:

Animation showing in-store-signups.xls being clicked to open the popup import summary

Here's an overview of the status totals you'll see in the summary:

  • Contacts added — How many new contacts were imported.
  • Contacts updated — Existing contacts whose contact records were updated.
  • Error rows — Rows skipped because there was a formatting or mapping issue. Click Download to generate a .csv file of your error contacts. This export includes information about the fields that are in error for each contact. Learn more about troubleshooting file import errors
  • Duplicate rows — Rows containing the same email address.

Import options

When importing a file, you'll see a couple of options on the file import page, as explained below.

Update existing contacts

You can use a file import to bulk-update data for existing contacts. For example, to add or replace details such the person's role at a company, geographic location, or membership status.

There are two options for how to handle the data imported:

  • Update their records — Select this option if you want to update existing contact records with data from your file. This will overwrite contact field values in your account with any new, or changed, data in your file. It also imports any new contacts on the list.
  • Leave them alone — Select this option if you just want to add new contacts. Any data associated with an existing contact's email address will be ignored.

If this is your first file import, and there are no existing contacts in your account, it doesn't matter which option is selected.

If you choose "Update their records" and a value is left empty in your imported file, it will overwrite any existing value stored in the contact field.

For example, let's say you update a contact's record, adding "Chicago" to the contact field for "City". If you later import a file containing that contact's email address, and the value for "City" is blank, this will overwrite what was previously recorded in your account.

Trigger a workflow

You can also use a file import to trigger automated emails. Read more about workflows triggered by contact field changes.

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