The Great Shopping Race: Online vs. Mall

To shop online or to trek to the mall -- it's the shopping dilemma of the cyber age. So "GMA" decided to put the two methods head-to-head.

Two moms, Gail Citrin and Jennifer Marcus Barbara, played the guinea pigs in the experiment. Citrin of Connecticut shopped online and New Jerseyan Barbara went to a local mall.

Their mission: to find a woman's cashmere sweater, a Casio Atomic Baby-G watch, a Cole Haan Lunch Tote, a 15-inch HDTV and an iDog, and spend only the $1000 provided by "GMA."

They found a few interesting things. The Web seemed to be better for those who knew what they wanted -- but the prices might be higher. Citrin spent $905.90 in two hours. But, online shopping was not always predictable. Only one item Citrin ordered came the next day, even though she ordered next-day delivery for all the items.

"I prefer to do all my shopping online," Citrin said. "The only bad part of the process was having to pay for overnight shipping, which costs a lot of money -- on some items, as much as $40. Usually I search for deals that provide free shipping or I do my shopping way in advance so there's never a need to pay for speedy delivery."

Barbara, on the other hand, spent $690 at the mall -- but was unable to find the Baby-G watch. Sales associates tried to steer her to another model, but she said she was shopping for a very picky person. She said she was told that she could order the watch to have it shipped later.

"It was crowded and exhausting," Barbara said. "It really took a lot of time. But then again, I was able to get back into the car knowing that I'd checked four of the five items off my list. So there was a sense of completion."

Here are a few tips that retail experts say can make a difference:

The Web is better if you know what you want.

Consumers often spend more in person and are more likely to fall prey to impulse shopping.

Paying at the makeup counter reduces wait time.

Sometimes the stores lure people in with deals and items not available on their sites.