When we discuss graceful degradation in email marketing, it's important to apply Occam’s razor: “the simplest solution is often the best.” That is to say: when possible, single column & single subject emails are best. Keep it Simple. Elegant. Straightforward.
But that isn’t always possible.
By eliminating superflous content, we often eliminate the need for multi-column emails… and thus remove the need for some of our trickery and tomfoolery.
The biggest places where we see degradation of email marketing is in older versions of mail clients (e.g. older iPhone users; Outlook 2010, 2007, 2003, etc). Most email clients (with the exception to MSO) are fairly friendly to responsive templates. Even older iOS devices work well email templates. However, no company wants to have a missed opportunity because MSO is lower on the list of widely used email clients.
Sure. We all want email clients catch up to general web standards. And we would all love to make “buttons” from a bootstrap environment. Alas, that is not our current reality in 2017. Maybe in the future! It is still recommended companies design with outlook in mind while still being mobile friendly.
When email templates need to accommodate more complex information, it's important to target the purpose of the email to the intended action... specifically the action you want your recipient to take. Sometimes all the coupons and content get in the way of what you want your customer to DO.
Don't worry! When you figure something out that works well, Apple, Google and Microsoft will work out a way to move the goal post. It is possible you will be working through many of these headaches with a team. Remember to keep the creativity flowing. Emails don't have to be boring and annoying. They can provide a little bit of surprise to your customers.