How do I import my contacts into ActiveCampaign from a CSV file?

After you create a list, you can begin to import existing contacts from a CSV file using our import tool.

With the import tool, you can map columns in your file with fields in your account, create new custom contact fields to map a column to, import contacts to a list(s), apply a tag(s) to the contacts, import contacts as Active, Unsubscribed, or Excluded, and choose to update existing contacts while you import. 

In this article, we'll show you how to import contacts from a CSV file.

Take note

  • The import tool only works with CSV files
    Learn how to prepare your CSV import file and how to save your spreadsheet as a CSV file
  • Each contact in your file must have a unique email address 
    If multiple contacts share the same email address, we'll import the first instance in your file and skip over the rest of the contacts who share that same email address. In addition, contacts in your file who do not have an email address will be skipped during the import process.
  • Contacts may be added to "Active" automations upon import
    Contacts will be added to automations set to "Active" if (1) the list you are adding them to is used in an automation trigger, (2) if you're tagging contacts during the import process and those tags are used in automation triggers, or (3) if you're importing values to a field and that field is used in an automation trigger. Learn how to prevent this.

Formatting your CSV file

  • Date Field values
    All date field values must use the following format: YYYY-MM-DD. Note that this format uses dashes only and does not contain any spaces or slashes. If this format is not followed, field values will default to a date in 1899.  
  • Multiple tags for a contact
    Tags must be separated by a comma. For example, Tag1,Tag2,Tag3.
  • Multiple values for a single field (Checkbox and List box fields)
    Make sure that these field types use the double-pipe || delimiter between options. For example, if you were to import a list of contacts who have multiple values for a field in a single cell, you would format the cell like this: Value 1||Value 2||Value 3
  • Email address fields
    Make sure all email addresses in your file are spelled correctly and are properly formatted.
  • Special and accented characters
    Make sure all values in your CSV file are enclosed in double-quotes and that your CSV file uses UTF-8 character encoding

Import contacts from a CSV file

1. Click "Contacts" located in the left menu.

2. Click the "Import" button.

3. Click the "Import from File" button.

4. A file browser will appear. Navigate to the file you wish to import and click it to select it.

5. Your file will process and you will be redirected to the import screen. Map the columns in your file to fields in your account by clicking the dropdown for each field:

If you don't wish to import data from a column, you can select "Do Not Import this Field" from the list of items in the dropdown:

To create a new field directly from the import page, click "[Add New Field]" and follow the prompts:

Note that any new field you create during the import process will be added to the General Details field group. Read more about Field Groups.

6. Select which list you'll be importing contacts into by clicking them. Note that this step is optional.

7. Type the tags you wish to apply to all contacts once they're imported. Note that this step is also optional.

As a best practice, you may want to apply a tag that indicates the source of these contacts. That way you can easily find this group if you need to make any bulk edits to them later.

8. Make sure that "Import As Active Contact" is selected.

The “Update Existing Contacts” setting will look for a matching email address in your account and add any additional contact data from your file into the contact record.

9. Click the "Import Now" button once you're done configuring settings.

The length of time it takes to import contacts will depend on the size of the CSV file. Most files will be imported in less than 10 minutes.

When finished, you can view your import results

Have more questions? Submit a request