But in today's terms, predictive marketing, based on predictive analytics, amounts to much more than hoping and believing that a home-maker will buy dish soap in the very near future.

It's real, and it has been for a few years, said John Young, Chief Analytics Officer at Epsilon.

Epsilon runs analytics against hundreds of millions of demographic and anonymized web-browsing records to help customers make optimal marketing decisions.

Jerry Jao of Retention Science puts predictive analytics at the core of knowing which customers are likely to abandon a brand—and how to retain them.

It feels a lot more real today than a year or two ago, when everyone wanted to sound cool, he told me.

The problem is that if it's historic data—even just a month old—it's probably now a list of credit card owners.

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