VLOOKUP with Advanced Techniques and Practical Examples

Microsoft Excel’s VLOOKUP function is a powerful tool for finding and retrieving data from large datasets. While many users are familiar with the basic usage of VLOOKUP, there are advanced techniques that can enhance its effectiveness. In this article, we’ll explore some of these advanced uses of VLOOKUP with practical examples to help you become a VLOOKUP expert.

Nested VLOOKUPs:

One of the advanced techniques involves nesting multiple VLOOKUP functions. This allows you to perform more complex lookups by chaining them together. Consider the following example:

Sales Data


Product sale





  • The inner VLOOKUP looks for the product ID (in cell A2) in Sheet 2 and retrieves the corresponding price.
  • The outer VLOOKUP then uses this price to look up the category in Sheet 3 and returns the final result.

Cell A2 (where the nested VLOOKUP is used): 102

Result is Clothing

INDEX and MATCH Combination:

Suppose you have a similar scenario but prefer using INDEX and MATCH for more flexibility.


=INDEX(Sheet2!B:B, MATCH(A2,Sheet2!A:A,0))


  • The MATCH function finds the position of the product ID (in cell A2) in the lookup array in Sheet 2.
  • The INDEX function retrieves the value from the corresponding position in the specified column (Sheet2!B:B), providing the desired result.

Cell A2 (where the INDEX and MATCH are used): 103

Result: 12.99

Wildcard Characters with VLOOKUP:

You have a list of products in Sheet 2, and you want to find the price of a product whose name starts with “Apples.”

Product list:





  • The VLOOKUP looks for a value that starts with “Apples” in the first column of Sheet2.
  • The asterisk (*) acts as a wildcard, allowing flexibility in matching, and the formula returns the corresponding price.

Using VLOOKUP with Data Validation:

Assume you want to create a dropdown list for product categories in another sheet based on the categories listed in Sheet 2.


Formula (for Data Validation):

=Sheet2!A: A


  • This formula is used in data validation to create a dropdown list.
  • It pulls the values from the entire column A in Sheet 2, creating a dynamic and easily updatable dropdown list of product categories.

Cell A2 (where the wildcard VLOOKUP is used): Apples

Expected Result: 2.99

Handling Errors with IFERROR:

Sheet2 – Sales Data


Cell A2 (where the IFERROR VLOOKUP is used): 104

Expected Result: Product Not Found


  • In this scenario, we have a sales data table in Sheet 2 with product IDs and their corresponding prices.
  • The formula in the cell A2 is =IFERROR(VLOOKUP(104,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE),”Product Not Found”).
  • The inner VLOOKUP attempts to find the price of the product with ID 104 in the sales data table (Sheet2!A:B).
  • The 2 in the formula indicates that the VLOOKUP should return the value from the second column of the specified range (Price column). The FALSE argument ensures that the lookup is exact.
  • However, since there is no product with ID 104 in the table, the VLOOKUP would normally return an error.
  • The IFERROR function is used to handle this potential error. If the VLOOKUP encounters an error (in this case, because the product ID 104 is not found), it returns the specified text, which is “Product Not Found” in this example.
  • As a result, the formula will output “Product Not Found” in the cell A2 instead of an error message. This is useful for creating more user-friendly and error-tolerant spreadsheets, as it provides a clear message when the lookup value is not present in the dataset.