Maintain Your Inventory and Product Catalog with BigCommerce’s Built-In Product Management System
As a BigCommerce user, you have the ability to fully manage your web store’s inventory and product catalog. Control quantities and product options, add or delete products, insert detailed product images, as well as create special product categories all within the BigCommerce admin section. Import new products in bulk or make mass changes throughout your catalog. You can also export select products to assist in the creation of new ones or export your entire catalog for backup. These functions are absolutely critical in operating and maintaining an online business.
Rink Rat Wrapz, a recent client of ours, had contracted us to handle both the design as well as product and inventory management duties of their new website. The client is unique in that they had a low amount of parent SKUs in their inventory, but the amount of individual child SKUs and product options were in the hundreds per each item. It would be absolutely feasible–and quite simple–to merely add the parent SKUs manually, one by one. The catch was that having to add each child SKU and option was too time-consuming and complicated to do in the same fashion. Hence, the need for mass importing/exporting of inventory.
In this piece, we will go over the basics of importing and exporting into BigCommerce and introduce you to the core features you will need to familiarize yourself with when it’s time for you to take on your own inventory management duties.
First Things First…
BigCommerce is much like other ecommerce platforms (such as Shopify and Magento) in that it prefers CSV or XML spreadsheet files for importing and exporting. You can use Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or Google Sheets to write and download your files. BigCommerce tends to prefer CSV files over XML so going forward, we’re going to use the CSV format in all future references in this writeup.
BigCommerce requires certain fields to be present in your data spreadsheet. Import sheets will need fields for product names and prices and when adding images to your products, BigCommerce will only accept .JPG/.JPEG, .GIF, and .PNG formats–other graphic types will not work under any circumstance and may cause multiple errors upon import attempt(s). Product SKU and stock level fields must also be present.
For a list of common import errors and how to correctly resolve them, please refer to BigCommerce’s own Data Import/Export troubleshooting page.
If your web store has pre-existing product, this is where you will extract the data for individual items or items in bulk; either select pieces or your entire inventory.
Export a Single Item or Export in Bulk:
- Go to PRODUCTS > VIEW.
- On the left-hand corner of each listed SKU, there is a checkbox. If you are selecting one or multiple SKUS, click the checkbox applicable for each item you wish to export. If you wish to export your entire inventory, click the checkbox in the header row (the line that reads IMAGE, PRODUCT SKU, STOCK LEVEL, etc.).
- On the top row, in the dropdown that reads –CHOOSE AN ACTION–, select BULK EDIT and click the CONFIRM button. This will take you to the next set of steps in creating the export file itself.
Create the Export File:
- Go to PRODUCTS > EXPORT.
- In the TEMPLATE dropdown menu, you will see options for BUILT-IN TEMPLATES. These include:
- Bulk Edit (BigCommerce recommends using BULK EDIT)
- Peachtree Accounting
- Under FILE FORMAT, there are two radio buttons for EXPORT TO MICROSOFT EXCEL (CSV) and EXPORT TO AN XML FILE (ADVANCED). As stated earlier, BigCommerce prefers the use of CSV files. EXPORT TO MICROSOFT EXCEL (CSV) will be automatically selected by default, so you’re not required to change anything here unless you happen to be working exclusively with XML. In that chase, choose the XML option.
(TIP: The SAVE EXPORT TO THE SERVER FOR LATER DOWNLOAD? option is helpful if you are exporting over 1,000 parent product SKUs. Checking this box will save your export file to your exports folder in WebDav.)
- Click CONTINUE.
- Next, when you see the pop-up, click EXPORT MY PRODUCTS TO A CSV FILE. This will initiate the export process.
- Once the export process has completed, a new pop-up will appear. Click the link for DOWNLOAD MY PRODUCTS FILE. This will download the file to your computer (typically, in your downloads folder or wherever you have assigned your downloads per your web browser).
Now that you have a downloaded copy of your products in a CSV file, you can open it in a spreadsheet program (IE: Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or Google Sheets) and make your necessary edits.
The Export File
When you open your export spreadsheet, you will see fields and values pertaining to your product(s). Here is where you will make your adjustments and edits in regards to adding new or altering existing items. Some of the fields displayed are not necessarily required for importing however, there are several that must be included or else the import will fail.
- Product ID
- Product Name
- Product Type
- Product Code/SKU
- Product Weight
- Allow Purchases?
- Track Inventory
For a full list and explanation of required export and import fields, please refer to BigCommerce’s guide to Importing and Exporting Products.
Whether you’re adding new products or making changes to products already in your inventory, this is where it all goes down.
- Go to PRODUCTS > IMPORT.
- Next, you will be brought to the IMPORT OPTIONS checklist. Thankfully, BigCommerce has already highlighted their recommended settings but you will still need to fill out a few fields.
- Under UPLOAD A CSV FILE FROM MY COMPUTER, click the CHOOSE FILE button and search for your file to upload. Or, if you downloaded your export file to your WebDAV server, select USE A FILE ALREADY ON THE SERVER. Choose your import file from the exports folder in WebDAV.
- Check the box marked FILE WAS EXPORTED USING THE ‘BULK EDIT’ TEMPLATE. REMEMBER: the original export file was exported using the BULK EDIT option.
- Check the box marked OVERWRITE EXISTING PRODUCTS. Doing this ensures that the fresh data from your edited export sheet (to be imported) gets inserted. When this box is checked, two more options will appear: DELETE EXISTING IMAGES and DELETE EXISTING DOWNLOADS. If no changes are made to the image path in your file or the images themselves in your WebDAV folder, you don’t need to select DELETE EXISTING IMAGES. DELETE EXISTING DOWNLOADS will overwrite the existing product information currently on your product SKU in BigCommerce and replace it with the new data coming in from the import. Select DELETE EXISTING DOWNLOADS if any changes have been made to pre-existing items, or if you wish to import fresh.
WARNING: If you select DELETE EXISTING IMAGES and/or DELETE EXISTING DOWNLOADS, your product images/digital product files already saved in BigCommerce will be permanently deleted and there is no way to retrieve them. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep duplicate copies of your original product file saved elsewhere (either on your computer or in a virtual disk like Dropbox or even a separate folder in WebDAV).
- Click NEXT. Because you have used BULK EDIT to export your items and have selected FILE WAS EXPORTED USING THE ‘BULK EDIT’ TEMPLATE, you can leave this page as-is. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click NEXT.
- Click START IMPORT. Let the import process run its course. You will see a status bar indicating progress. Be sure to keep an eye on the number of products imported. This should match the number of parent/child SKUs in your export sheet. Should any errors occur, take note of the fields X-PRODUCTS FAILED TO BE IMPORTED and X-PRODUCTS WERE NOT ABLE TO BE FULLY IMPORTED. Numbers appearing here signify an error which has prevented the item line from being transferred.
- When the import has finished, you will see a summarized scorecard. A clean import will have x-number values under the fields PRODUCTS WERE IMPORTED SUCCESSFULLY and PRODUCTS WERE UPDATED SUCCESSFULLY. If the import threw errors, you will see links for MORE INFORMATION next to the field containing the error. Be sure to take note of the line number and explanation of the errors when you click this link. With this information, refer to your export sheet and make the necessary corrections.
- If your import is clean, click VIEW IMPORTED PRODUCTS and review the changes made. It will take you to a modified version of the View Products page in the BigCommerce back office. You can also view your products by going to PRODUCTS > VIEW. New additions will appear towards the top of the list. If you’ve made changes to items already in place, you will need to seek them out individually through the entire product list. Clicking on VIEW IMPORTED PRODUCTS after the import process has concluded will list all of the applicable items in one lump, saving you the trouble of having to ‘hunt-n-peck’ for the modified items within the complete list.
Important Safety Tips
- It is not necessary to fill in the image paths in your export sheet for import. However, this means you will need to manually upload your images one-by-one through the BigCommerce backend. When uploading images VIA export/import, you will need to type out the full image URL path. Also, be mindful that WebDAV is case-sensitive. Therefore, the path in your spreadsheet is also case-sensitive. Paths and filenames must match exactly in order for the upload to work.
- There is a filesize limit to the BigCommerce import. Keep your export files under 512MB (the maximum limit set by BigCommerce). While it makes sense that uploading a mass quantity of products in a single import would be the most efficient route, the more data there is to process means the higher probability for the import to fail or lock up. When uploading in bulk, try to keep your CSV files under 1,000 lines. If uploading your entire catalog, it may be necessary to break up your inventory into separate spreadsheets. Yes, this will take longer but it will lessen the probability of failure during the import process.
- When working in a spreadsheet editor, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the application’s formulas and how to write them. You still do have the option of manually entering the data line-by-line, but formulas will help save time. If you are not comfortable with working with spreadsheet formulas, it may be best to just type out the data manually. An error in a formula will definitely result in an error during importing.
- If you are saving copies of your export/import files for backup, know that you cannot reuse the data again if you wish to re-import at a later date. Meaning, a file written on one day that imports properly will not work if imported again with no changes. BigCommerce datestamps the data in export/import spreadsheet files. If you are making changes to your products over time, you will still need to perform the export/import process as though you were importing new product for the first time. Keeping backup copies, however, does help with referencing certain fields between spreadsheets.
- A common cause for error during the import process is often found in the TRACK INVENTORY VALUE column of your spreadsheet; most often, because this field has been left blank. If you are not tracking inventory, set this value to NONE.
- Be careful when doing multiple imports within a short amount of time. Sending too much data at once can cause a logjam, of sorts, in the BigCommerce data servers. If you are repeat-importing the same product over and over again (rectifying errors, correcting mistakes in the spreadsheet data), sometimes this will cause the main product image to get lost in translation. You can avoid this by not selecting the DELETE EXISTING IMAGES option, but do this only if you are certain that you are not making any changes to the product images. If the import errors out because it has lost the main product image, you can still re-upload it at the product level. Keep in mind that it will create a new path and the path referenced in your export/import sheet will now be invalid.